paper1 – research methodds

Component #1 – Problem Statement (1 page) 


Due by 11:59 PM on Saturday, Jan 30, 2020

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Your problem statement should introduce the reader to your topic. (Why should the criminal justice field be curious or want to learn about your subject). Define the problem exactly as it exists.  Try to convey, why the topic is significant, briefly what the literature states (what have researchers concluded or found), while working towards developing a research question(S) also known as a thesis. Describe the nature and magnitude of the problem using updated statistical data (NOT Wikipedia) (UCR, NCVS, NIBRS, BJS, etc.) You must cite the source of your data.  You do not need to explain the symptoms or solutions of the problem only the problem itself. 

Your thesis statement needs to be specific and should reflect what you are going to cover in your paper. A thesis typically appears at the end of the first paragraph. A good thesis will make a claim and will control the entire argument throughout your paper.

Paragraph 1: Intro: define problem & thesis

Paragraph 2: Supporting facts of the problem (scholarly source)

Paragraph 3: More supporting facts/data of the problem

Paragraph 4: The final paragraph should explain your proposed study (how you are going to figure out/ prove your thesis statement or answer your thesis question). This can be done through a survey, collecting past data, observations, etc. This is a short paragraph, which will be expanded during your methodological section.

Example (Short):

As many people know, domestic violence is a criminal act involving victims and offenders who are related to one another. Domestic Violence includes intimidation and simple, aggravated, and sexual assault. What most people may not be aware of is that domestic violence has become a national dilemma, with a crime of this type occurring every 9 seconds. Family members try to ignore what’s happening and neighbors do not want to get involved. The victim is usually helpless to understand the problem, let alone determine the solution to it. Instead of the difficulties being addressed before they can further develop, law enforcement agencies are usually left to handle each case only after a criminal act has taken place and someone has been injured. At this point, the officers themselves are at risk due to the volatile nature of the situation. Despite the stereotypes, domestic violence knows no racial, gender, age, religious, socioeconomic, or sexual orientation boundaries and statistics show that these crimes impact virtually every one of us in some way



Example (Full): (Examples of drafts from previous students)

Drugs and medicines have been used to cure pain and illness for thousands of years throughout human history.  From ancient people in Egypt using herbs to the arrival of penicillin, the first antibiotic in 1928, by Sir Alexander Fleming to the hypodermic needle in 1857 and the wide spread use of morphine, a pain reliever.  Drugs have shaped society throughout the ages, although not necessarily in a good way.  With the easy availability of drugs today more people use drugs not specifically for their purpose but to get “high”.  Today in the U.S., drugs have become a real problem; young children are getting their hands on their parents’ prescription pills and taking them, not knowing what they are or what they can do to them, which can ultimately lead to substance abuse.  Drugs are trafficked, sold, and traded throughout the U.S. and this is becoming a huge problem within the criminal justice system. 

           Many criminal justice professionals believe that the use of drugs can promote violent crime:  “In 2011 in the state of Arizona the Arizona Arrestee Reporting Information Network (AARIN), which provides data on arrestees in the Maricopa County found that in the previous 30 days 56% arrested used marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, or heroin (States new service, 2012).”  More than half of the people who were arrested were using drugs. 

           One answer to the drug abuse and violent problem has been attempted in Arizona with a change to prisoner reentries.  In January 2010 Arizona started the use of a Prison Reentry Unit, which changed the way reentering prisoners are supervised.  Every prisoner once released from the Arizona Department of Corrections has to report to the probation department.  “With this new system implemented the failure to report to probation dropped from 23% to 2.3%; the rate in which prisoner’s probation was terminated and were re- incarcerated dropped from 10.1% to 4.9%, and most importantly the rate of new felony arrests dropped from 13.8% to 10.8% with the new program”(AUTHOR, YEAR, p.).  This probation department seems to have helped significantly with released prisoners. 

           An anonymous survey could be put together to try to prove how serious drug abuse and violent crime are and how they can be correlated.  This survey could ask all persons arrested for violent crimes to answer a questionnaire that asked questions such as have you taken drugs before? How many times have you taken drugs in the last 6 months? Do you think that drug use in any way fueled you to commit this crime? This would give some useful information on how serious this matter is or could be.

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General Issues in Research Design
Chapter 3


Foundations of Social Science
Two pillars of science are logic and observation
These pillars relate to the three key aspects of science:
Data collection
Data analysis

Theory: a set of concepts and the proposed relationship among these concepts; a structure that is intended to represent or models something about the world
Provide general statements about social life
Used to guide research and develop a hypothesis
Hypothesis: a specified expectation and empirical reality
Y = f(X)
Hypothesis testing: involves finding out if observations are consistent with the hypothesis

Regularities and Exceptions
Goal of theory is to find patterns of regularity in social life
Formal and informal norms create regularity
Regularities can be studied via scientific analysis
Exceptions do not negate regularities Relationships are probabilistic: patterns need not be reflected in 100% of observations

Aggregates, Not Individuals
Social scientists study social patterns, or aggregates, not individual behavior
We care about why aggregated patterns of behavior are regular even when participating individuals change over time
e.g., processing and classifying new inmates

Variables and Attributes
Social science involves the study of these two concepts
Theory is written in a variable language; people are the carriers of those variables
e.g., lower-class juveniles are more likely to steal
Attributes – characteristics that describe some object/person
Variables – logical groupings
Male and female are the attributes of the variable gender

Variables and Relationships
Theories describe the relationships that might be logically expected among variables
Causation – an attribute of one variable is expected to cause, predispose, or encourage an attribute of another variable
Independent variable: “cause”, “influencer”
Dependent variable: “effect”, “depends”
Type of defense attorney (IV) effects prison or probation (DV)

Differing Avenues for Inquiry
Three distinctions underlie many of the variations in social scientific research:
Type of data

Idiographic and Nomothetic Explanations
Idiographic explanations: seek a full and detailed understanding of a single case or situation
Nomothetic explanations: are partial explanations that explain a class of situations or events rather than a single one.
Both types are powerful tools in criminal justice research

Example of Ideographic Explanations
Clifford R. Shaw developed ideographic explanations to understand the lives of juvenile delinquents. These case studies, described in such books as The Jack-Roller and Brothers in Crime, offered researchers a comprehensive view of the effect that variables such as family factors, peer influences, and community circumstances have on the engagement in juvenile delinquency. Data collection involved interviews with the youths and their parents, analyzing diaries kept by the youths, and reviewing juveniles medical, school, and arrest records. These case studies were later used to develop monothetic explanations of juvenile delinquency that could be generalized to all delinquents.

Inductive and Reductive Reasoning
Deductive reasoning: moves from the general to the specific
From a logically or theoretically-expected pattern to observations that test the presence of the pattern
Inductive reasoning: moves from the specific to the general
From a set of observations to the discovery of a pattern among them
Grounded theory

Qualitative and Quantitative Data
All observations are qualitative at the outset
Qualitative = non-numerical; greater richness of meaning
Quantitative = numerical; carries a focusing of attention and specification of meaning
e.g., a person’s age
Both are useful and legitimate – choose based on topic or combine aspects of both
e.g., What constitutes “maturity”?

Criteria for Causation
Posited by Shadish, Cook, & Campbell (2002)
Empirical relationship between variables
Temporal order (cause precedes effect)
No alternative explanations – no spurious other variable(s) affecting the initial relationship

Validity and Causal Inference
When we make a cause-and-effect statement, we are concerned with its validity – whether it is true and valid
Validity threats: reasons we might be incorrect in stating that some cause produced some effect

Does Drug Use Cause Crime?
Temporal order: which comes first?
A statistical relationship exists, but underlying causes affect both drug use and crime (IV threat)
Relationship between crime and drug use varies by type of drug
How will policy affect drug use and crime? A crackdown on all drugs among all populations will do little to reduce serious crime.

Scientific Realism
Scientific realism: bridges idiographic and nomothetic approaches to explanation by seeking to understand how casual mechanisms operate in specific contexts
Scientific realism studies how other possible influences are involved in cause-and-effect relationships
Contains elements of both idiographic and monothetic modes of explanation

Units of Analysis 1
Unit of analysis: what or who is studied
Individuals – (police, victims, defendants, inmates, gang members, burglars)
Groups – multiple persons with same characteristics – (gangs, police beats, patrol districts, households, city blocks, cities, counties)

Unit of Analysis 2
Organizations – formal groups with established leaders and rules – (prisons, police departments, courtrooms, drug treatment facilities, businesses, agencies)
Social artifacts – products of social beings and their behavior – (stories in newspapers, posts on the Internet, photographs of crime scenes, incident reports, police/citizen interactions)

Issues in Logic
Ecological fallacy: danger of making assertions about individuals based on the examination of groups or aggregations (Poor areas = more crime, therefore poor people commit more crime)
Individualistic fallacy: using anecdotal evidence to make an argument

Time Dimension
Time sequence is critical in determining causation
Time is also involved in the generalizability of research findings
Observations can either be made more or less at one point, or stretched over a longer period

Cross-Sectional Studies
Cross-sectional studies: observing a single point in time; simple and least costly way to conduct research
We cannot see social processes or changes; have to worry if we picked a bad point in time to capture
Typically descriptive or exploratory in nature

Longitudinal Studies
Longitudinal studies: permit observations over time
Trend – those that study changes within some general population over time (UCR)
Cohort – examine more specific populations as they change over time (Wolfgang study)
Panel – similar to trend or cohort, but the same set of people is interviewed on two or more occasions (NCVS) (panel attrition)

Cincinnati Study on Lead Exposure
Researchers at the University of Cincinnati recruited individuals born from 1979-1985 to take part in a longitudinal panel study. During childhood, the research subjects’ blood was tested for lead exposure several times. Interviews and surveys of the subjects and their parents were used to assess the youths’ levels of delinquency. The results showed that youths who were exposed to lead engaged in more acts of delinquency and used marijuana more than those not exposed. At the time of this study, the research subjects were between 15 and 17. The researchers are still studying this subjects, which will allow for more examinations of the effects of lead exposure on adult behaviors.
Dietrich, K.N., Ris, M.D., Succop, P.A., Berger, O.G. & Bornschein, R.L. (2001). Early exposure to lead and juvenile delinquency. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 23, 511-518.

Approximating Longitudinal Studies
Logical inferences: may be possible to draw approximate conclusions about processes that take place over time, even when only cross sectional data is available
When time order of variables is clear, logical inferences can be made about processes taking place over time

Retrospective Research
Asks people to recall their past for the purpose of approximating observations over time
People have faulty memories; people lie
Analysis of past records also suffer from problems – records may be unavailable, incomplete, or inaccurate
Prospective research – longitudinal study that follows subjects forward in time (Widom – child abuse/drug use)

Time Dimension Summarized
Cross-sectional study = snapshot – an image at one point in time
Trend study = slide show – a series of snapshots in sequence over time, allows us to tell how some indicator varies over time
Panel study = motion picture – gives information about individual observations over time

Ethics in Criminal Justice Research
Chapter 2


Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice Research
Ethical – behavior conforming to the standards of conduct of a given group
Matter of agreement among professionals
Need to be aware of general agreements of ethical behavior among CJ “community”
Some research designs may be impractical because of ethical issues

No Harm to Participants
Weighing potential benefits against possibility of harm is an ethical dilemma in research
Possible harms of criminal justice research include:
Physical harm
Psychological harm
Groups at risk include:
Research subjects
Third parties

No Harm to Participants
All research involves risks
Researcher cannot completely guard against all possible harm
Researcher should have firm scientific grounds for conducting research which could potentially present harm
Harm to subjects is only justified if the potential benefits outweigh the potential harms

Voluntary Participation
CJ research often intrudes into subjects’ lives
Participation must be voluntary
This threatens generalizability
Results only represent those who participated
Often not possible with field observations
E.g., observe people without them being aware they are being observed

Anonymity and Confidentiality
Anonymity – when researcher cannot identify a given piece of information with a given person
Confidentiality – a researcher can link information with a subject, but promises not to do so publicly
Research must make it clear to the responded whether the survey is anonymous or confidential

Deceiving Subjects
Generally considered unethical
Use of deception must be justified
Widom (1999) – child abuse and illegal drug use
Telling research subjects the purpose of the study would have biased the results
Inciardi (1993) – studying crack houses
Advises researchers not to “go undercover”

Analysis and Reporting
Researchers have ethical obligations to scientific community
Make shortcomings and/or negative findings known
Tell the truth about pitfalls and problems you’ve experienced
Report negative findings
It is as important to know that two things are not related as to know that they are

Legal Liability
Researchers may expose themselves to criminal liability by:
Failing to report observed criminal activity to the police
Engaging in criminal activity
Engaging in participant observation studies where crimes are committed
Subpoenas violate confidentiality
Legal immunity (42 U.S. Code §22.28a)

Special Problems
Disrupting operations of agencies during the course of an evaluation
Becoming aware of staff misbehavior in agencies
Research may produce crime or influence its location or target
Crime may be displaced
Withholding desirable treatments from control group

Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment
The Tuskegee syphilis experiment brought about a great deal of concern regarding the withholding of desirable treatment. During the experiment, penicillin was withheld from African American males suffering from syphilis even after it was well known that it would cure syphilis. Several of the men in the study died painful deaths from syphilis and many infected their spouses and children with the disease. The gross ethical violations in this study also led to the development of the Belmont Report and Internal Review Boards which will be discussed later.

Promoting Compliance With Ethical Principles
Belmont Report – six page report that prescribed a comprehensive set of ethical principles for protection of human subjects
Respect for persons

Promoting Compliance With Ethical Principles: Continued
Codes of ethics
Professional associations
American Psychological Association
American Sociology Association
The National Academy of Science
Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences

Institutional Review Board (IRB)
Agencies and organizations that conduct research that conduct human subjects research have established IRBs
Members make judgments about overall risks, and their acceptability
Whether research procedures includes safeguards to protect safety, confidentiality, and general welfare of subjects

Informed Consent
Informed consent – informing subjects about research procedures and then obtaining their consent to participate
Requires that subjects understand the purpose of research possible risks, side effects, possible benefits to subjects, and procedures used
Satisfies voluntary consent
Informing subjects of the purpose of the research
Insuring subjects can understand

Special Populations
Special Populations – subjects to whom federal regulations apply special provisions
Often must also received parental consent
Cannot be subjected to greater harm than the general public can ethically be subjected
Must inform them that refusal to participate will not affect work assignments, release decisions, or privileges
Member of IRB must be prisoner representative
Control subjects need to be randomly selected for most projects

IRBs and Researcher Rights
IRBs have become very cautious
Restricts researchers abilities to increase knowledge
Can help researcher balance harms and benefits and help overcome potential issues

Ethical Controversies: Simulating a Prison
Dispositional hypothesis – prisons are brutal and dehumanizing because of people in them
Situational hypothesis – prison environment creates brutal and dehumanizing conditions independent of the people in them
Haney, Banks, and Zimbardo – sought to test situational hypothesis by simulating a prison in 1971

The Experiment
“Prison” constructed in basement of psychology building
24 healthy/psychologically normal subjects selected, offered $15 a day for their participation
Asked to sign a contract that they would be confined, put under constant surveillance, and have their civil rights suspended – but would not be subject to physical abuse

The Experiment Short-lived
Terminated after six days (planned for two weeks)
Subjects displayed “unexpectedly intense reactions”
Five had to be released because they showed signs of acute depression or anxiety
Guards became aggressive, prisoners became passive

Researchers Sensitive to Ethical Issues 1
Obtained consent via signed contracts
Those who developed signs of acute distress were released early
Study was terminated prematurely
Group therapy debriefing sessions were conducted, along with follow-ups, to ensure negative experiences were temporary

Researcher Sensitivity to Ethical Issues 2
Subjects were not fully informed of the procedures
Researchers were unsure as to how simulation would proceed
Guards were granted the power to make up and modify rules – became increasingly authoritarian
How might this study have been conducted differently?


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