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Criminology and Criminal Justice Research: Methods

Future Of Research Methods In Criminology And Criminal Justice

Although the preceding discussion has portrayed the two main research paradigms, quantitative and qualitative research methods, as two ends of the research continuum, it was not meant to imply that the two are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, the future of research methods in criminology and criminal justice lies in the combination of quantitative and qualitative research approaches. Illustrated below are two successful integrations.

The first, by Eric Hirsch, used a combination of methods, including participant observation, intensive interviewing, and a standardized survey, to study the 1985 student movement that attempted to make Columbia University divest its stock in companies dealing with South Africa. Hirsch believed that the combination of research methodologies provided a more comprehensive picture of student's motivations.

The second example is from John Laub and Robert Sampson. For quite some time, these two scholars have been working on the reanalysis of one of the classic data sets in criminology, the Unraveling Juvenile Delinquency (UJD) study that was initiated by Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck in 1940. The data contain the original case records of all one thousand sample members as well as detailed archival life records that included information from the "home investigation," which consisted of an interview with family members and offered an opportunity for the investigators to observe the home and family life of sample members. Furthermore, the UJD study included interviews with key informants such as social workers, settlement house workers, clergymen, schoolteachers, neighbors, employers, and criminal justice and social welfare officials. When this detailed information is combined with the statistical information on criminal behavior and other life events, one can begin to appreciate the richness with which Laub and Sampson have been able to document these one thousand lives and contribute much needed information regarding crime over the life course.

The future of criminological and criminal justice research will likely come full circle. Early studies of crime and criminality began with qualitative observations almost to the exclusion of quantitative research. New research topics were observed and highlighted by scholars who wished to forge ahead in the understanding of crime and criminality. Once these topics were brought to the forefront of the field, quantitative research became the choice method of analysis. The future of criminological research must focus on the blending of the two. As John Clausen notes, both case history and statistical data are required "if we are to understand the influences on the lives of persons who have lived through a particular slice of American history" (p. 43).

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawCriminology and Criminal Justice Research: Methods - Quantitative Research Methods, Threats To Validity, Qualitative Research Methods, Future Of Research Methods In Criminology And Criminal Justice