Methods in Criminological Studies

Introduction

Scholars and researchers should be aware of various research techniques to execute their studies successfully (Maxfield & Babbie, 2014). This essay gives a detailed analysis of the major field research and sampling methods used in criminological studies. The benefits of different study approaches are described to guide researchers. Some of the targeted study tools include questionnaires, interviews, field research, sampling techniques, and secondary data analyses. Such tools make it possible for scholars to complete their studies successfully. This essay also outlines various issues that must be considered whenever dealing with confidential secondary data.

Discussion Questions

Researchers can use questionnaires or interviews depending on a number of factors. Questionnaires “are preferable when the targeted topic is embarrassing to discuss face to face” (Phellas, Bloch, & Seale, 2011, p. 3). They are also used when there is not enough time to conduct face-to-face interviews. They can also be used when the respondents are far. This is the case because the interviewer or researcher might find it hard to access the targeted respondents. Questionnaires are useful when looking for written responses. The use of questionnaires is also relevant when looking for detailed information.

Interviews are used to collect data verbally. The researcher can select a group or an individual to interview. A face-to-face approach is a common aspect of every interview. The interviewer should have the best communication and listening skills in order to achieve the targeted goals. On the other hand, questionnaires are aimed at delivering standardized data (Maxfield & Babbie, 2014). The respondents are expected to offer written responses that can be analyzed effectively. The researcher should therefore be aware of the targeted results before selecting the most appropriate data collection method.

Questionnaires tend to have unique disadvantages and benefits. To begin with, questionnaires are effective and easy to use. The interviewer also selects a target population that has the potential to offer quality results. When conducted in a professional manner, the research process can deliver meaningful findings (Phellas et al., 2011). The major disadvantages of questionnaires explain some researchers might fail to use them. For instance, some respondents might offer false answers. The professional should allocate enough time in order to design, distribute, and collect the questionnaires. The gathered data or information should also be analyzed in a professional manner. Interviews also have their benefits. To begin with, such a method is effective when looking for urgent data. The method ensures that the targeted respondents offer conclusive feedback. The method is also known to save time. One of the disadvantages of an interview method is that it consumes a lot of time (Phellas et al., 2011). Researchers with poor communication, listening, and interactional skills might not get the best information. This development will eventually affect the success of the research.

Researchers should therefore consider the size of the sample in order to formulate the right questions. The research method should also be appropriate depending on the targeted outcomes. The researchers should also construct their questions in an effective manner to support the emotional needs of every respondent. The questions should be guided by the outlined research objectives. It is also appropriate for the researcher to be aware of the targeted response rates (Phellas et al., 2011). This means that the scholar should analyze the effectiveness of the targeted population before conducting the research.

Field researches are quite beneficial because they make it possible for researchers to get firsthand information about various processes or events (Maxfield & Babbie, 2014). The researcher visits the targeted field (or society) to get accurate information. The gathered information eventually produces a quality report. Field researches are therefore characterized by two unique components. These are interviews and observations. Scholars can observe a phenomenon and make the best records. They should also ask specific questions to get the best responses from the targeted interviewees (Phellas et al., 2011). The combination of observations and questions makes it possible for the researcher to get the targeted data. Researchers can also use interviews to gather useful information from different respondents. These aspects make it possible for researchers to conduct their field researches successfully.

There are four basic approaches to field research. These “four approaches include the participant, participant observer, complete observer, and observer observant” (Phellas et al., 2011, p. 4). The participant “observes covertly while being part of the setting” (Phellas et al., 2011, p. 5). The participant observer has both non-research and natural reasons to be part of the study setting. The third approach is “the observer participant who has a minimal involvement in the study setting” (Phellas et al., 2011, p. 6). The complete observer lacks a role in the targeted setting. The researcher should be consider these four approaches and select the one that has the potential to deliver meaningful results.

Field researches also have specific weaknesses and strengths. For instance, field research delivers detailed data and emphasizes the role of social contexts. It also delivers meaningful facts about societies. The method makes it possible for the researcher to record firsthand observations (Maxfield & Babbie, 2014). The inclusion of questions improves the quality of the gathered data (Phellas et al., 2011). However, the approach may lack the desirable breadth. The method is also cumbersome for researchers. The researcher will be required to allocate enough time in order to complete the targeted study. Scholars should therefore consider these strengths and disadvantages of field researchers before selecting them.

The two major sampling designs in field research include non-probability and probability (Williams & McShane, 2013). The probability method ensures that all elements are included in the targeted sample. This method makes it possible for researchers to calculate the mathematical probability of the sample. The second method is used to study specific elements associated with the targeted population or sample. Such elements are selected based on their availability. Researchers should identify specific elements that represent the entire population sample.

Probability sampling approaches are subdivided into systematic, simple random, cluster, multistage, multiphase, and stratified random samples. These samples types are completed in accordance with their names. For example, a simple random sample is taken from a specific target population. This sampling method is easy to execute but might not deliver quality results (Williams & McShane, 2013). A multiphase sample is completed in different stages. This approach makes it possible for the researcher to monitor the effectiveness of different findings. A multiphase sample is also characterized by the use of different stages. Stratification is embraced whenever focusing on stratified random samples.

Non-probability samples can be purposive, quota, or convenience (Maxfield & Babbie, 2014). A purposive sample focuses on the best elements while convenience studies gather quality information based on the availability of the respondents. Quotas are used when the entire population cannot be sampled. Scholars should consider the unique aspects of these samples before using them to complete their projects.

Some benefits and weaknesses explain why researchers should be careful whenever planning to use probability samples (Phellas et al., 2011). To begin with, probability sampling is accurate and easy to use. This strength makes it useful for many people. The sampling technique also makes it easier for more than one event to be studied. The method also delivers quality findings. Individuals who use the method come up with meaningful studies that can be used to implement new policies (Williams & McShane, 2013). However, it can be cumbersome to execute. The researcher should allocate more time in order to have a successful study. The respondents or populations might be unable to support the study process.

Many researchers prefer non-probability samples because they make it easier for them to study large populations. The sampling approach delivers useful findings that can be used to make relevant decisions. Researchers can also “use available individuals to represent the entire population” (Williams & McShane, 2013, p. 38). The method is also easy to execute. This is the case because the researchers do not have to interview or sample every aspect of the targeted population. These benefits explain why many scholars prefer to use the sampling technology. There are also some weaknesses associated with this sampling method. For instance, this approach might not offer conclusive findings. Maxfield and Babbie, (2014) argue that the sampling technique can be cumbersome and ineffective. The other major challenge associated with this technique is that large population samples can only be studied using non-probability samples. Probability sampling is also appropriate when focusing on small populations.

Researchers should be aware of the major challenges, requirements, and considerations associated with the use of secondary data (Phellas et al., 2011). It is also critical to consider the nature and sensitivity of the targeted data. A study aimed at analyzing secondary data relevant to racial profiling and traffic steps should be carefully planned because the targeted information is confidential. As well, some ethical and moral considerations should be addressed (Phellas et al., 2011). If a fellow researcher asks me to join her in performing secondary data analysis on this kind of information, it would be necessary to ask some critical questions. The first question to consider is whether the targeted data is qualitative or quantitative. The second question should focus on the nature of data that can be availed by the Department of Justice. This is the case because the targeted data is sensitive. As well, the researcher should be guided during the process in order to maintain the integrity of the targeted study.

The above questions are therefore necessary because they will dictate the nature of the proposed study. The answers provided by the researcher will make it easier for me to outline the best study approach. It is also acknowledgeable that the understanding will ensure the best research methodology is selected. The selected study methodology should be able to gather meaningful data and information in order to produce a quality research report (Williams & McShane, 2013).

The next approach is to identify the important data that can support the targeted study objective. The secondary data analysis technique will thus be guided by the study question. Evaluability assessments ensure the targeted study delivers quality information. A feasibility study is undertaken in order to ensure the targeted research delivers quality findings (Williams & McShane, 2013). Such assessments make it possible for the researcher to determine the challenges, opportunities, and benefits of the study. The data should be monitored and analyzed in an attempt to support the targeted project.

Some feasibility study questions can be relevant for a racial profiling study (Williams & McShane, 2013). Some questions can also be used to establish the validity and accuracy of the secondary data maintained by the Department of Justice. The quantity of the secondary data is something that should also be considered before undertaking the project. The gathered secondary data will then be evaluated in order to come up with the best ideas. A powerful statistical approach should therefore be used to present accurate findings (Phellas et al., 2011). The best questions for a racial profiling can focus on the rate of racial profiling and measures to control it. The designed research should therefore present powerful ideas and strategies that can deal with racial profiling. The evaluation method will therefore present powerful observations and solutions.

Conclusion

Scholars should be aware of the above research concepts in order to execute their studies successfully. The first question has identified the issues associated with the use of interviews and questionnaires. The second question examines the challenges, implications, and benefits of field researches. The major sampling techniques are also described in question three. The last part identifies the role of secondary data in research.

Reference List

Maxfield, M., & Babbie, E. (2014). Research Methods for Criminal Justice and Criminology. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Phellas, C., Bloch, A., & Seale, C. (2011). Structured Methods: Interviews, Questionnaires and Observation.

Williams, F., & McShane, M. (2013). Criminological Theory. Upper-Saddler River, NJ: Prentice Hall.