Exploring Research Methodology in the Criminal Justice System

by Elizabeth Hall
Pond near the College of Research Methodology ...
Pond near the College of Research Methodology and Cognitive Science (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
All around us every day are examples of the results of scientific research that most of us probably take for granted.  Within the confines of the criminal justice system, research plays an important part in our society, as it is this research that ascertains what laws and policies we as citizens must obey or become part of the system when they are caught disobeying these laws and policies (Siegel, 2010).  All scientific research is governed by rules that apply to the scope and methodology that is allowed for academic and scientific credence, which is how we use inquiry to achieve positive changes in society. Sampling of research populations are utilized to keep things confidential and balanced.  One hypothesis that we could explore is whether providing adequate mandatory mental health care in the correctional system, would reduce recidivism.  In this essay we will explore the methodology that is utilized in criminal justice research, including the survey, interview, observation, statistical data collection, and questionnaire methods along with applying them to our research hypothesis (Babbie & Maxfield, 2010).
Survey Research Methodology and Application
Survey research is utilized in the criminal justice field often as noted by Babbie & Maxfield (2010), and often provides information that people would not readily admit, such as drug use or criminal history.  This type of research Driscoll (2011) holds that surveys are defined as a short list of questions that can be fill in the blank, multiple choice and even true or false entries that study participants fill out and return. These are both open and close ended questions.  Researchers formulate a survey based on the hypothesis of the project with questions designed to provide the best data to prove or disprove the hypothesis.  Surveys provide information about participant’s opinions and behaviors regarding the subject of the hypothesis (Driscoll, 2011).  Babbie & Maxfield (2010) hold that surveys can be self reporting or targeted, such as victimization surveys. 
Interview Research Methodology and Application
English: "Lebanon's Scientific Research Center" Organization's Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Interview research according to Driscoll (2011) is defined as either one on one or small groups of participants answering questions to a researcher in person.  One issue with this type of methodology as opposed to the survey method is that it is slightly less confidential.  This is because participants must answer the questions directly to the researcher.  Babbie & Maxfield (2010) however, hold that more responses are gained by interview research methodology because they send interviewers out to record the responses, instead of just relying on participants to return a form on their own with an average of 80-85 percent return rate. 
Observation Research Methodology and Application
Babbie & Maxfield (2010), hold that the observation method of conducting social science research provides the most conclusive data.  Researchers who utilize this type of data collection may either participate minimally, partially, or fully, however they may not cross ethical lines while participating. For instance those participating in a study on theft as researchers should not steal.  The application of this methodology is that the researcher would insert themselves into the experiment based on the level of participation chosen and record data about the experience and subject during the process (Babbie & Maxfield, 2010).     
Statistical Data Collection Research Methodology and Application
Statistical Data Collection involves the mathematical side of the social sciences and provides more empirical data notes Babbie & Maxfield (2010).  There are two types of statistical data used in these applications, descriptive and inferential.  Descriptive statistical data provides a quantitative summary of data while inferential statistics provide the means for researchers to draw conclusions based on their observation.  Descriptive data also called univariate data can be measured in frequency distributions or summary averages such as with mean, mode, and the median representatives of data groups.  Inferential statistics are usually drawn from a sampling of the entire range of the study population.  These are tested to measure accuracy with a test of statistical significance based on logic suggesting correlation between the x and y variables in the study (Babbie & Maxfield, 2010). 
Questionnaire Research Methodology and Application
While one might think that the survey and the questionnaire are the same thing, when it comes to scientific research they are very different (Babbie & Maxfield, 2010).  A survey as discussed before has several different types of questions, but a questionnaire usually has a combination of statements and questions including open ended, multiple-choice, true or false, and the addition of contingency questions.  These can eliminate parts of the questionnaire for groups and allow for more variables in the research as they may skip certain parts and continue on to others based on previous answers.  This type of research can be administered in focus groups, by mail, in person, and by telephone, as can surveys (Driscoll, 2011).
Research Hypothesis
In this paper we are going to explore the hypothesis that follows: providing mandatory adequate psychological care in correctional facilities would reduce recidivism and overcrowding in the correctional system. In exploring this topic we will look at it using the statistical data collection and observation methodologies and how they would be utilized in the research.  The statistical data collection technique and the observation technique are used together to form conclusions based on inferential data.  Observational data can be obtained by the researcher observing the effects of increased psychological care measured in this study by transferring notes from the insertion of the researcher and staff into three correctional facilities as psychological counselors, and can be measured by the rate of recidivism amongst the inmate populations over the next ten years. The inmate files would contain this information which can be managed with a database or spreadsheet.  Inferential statistical data can then be mined for trends in crime patterns and recidivism rates out of the observational data gathered, and policy and laws can be enacted to positively affect society (Babbie & Maxfield, 2010). 
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Scientific research not only shapes the products we use, but even the policies and laws that govern our country (Driscoll, 2011).  Sociologists and criminologists use this research to study crime, including causation, trends, and behaviors using the research to help curb recidivism and promote good mental health in a modern society (Siegel, 2010).  The most utilized method of research in these fields is surveys, and the most relevant to the hypothesis.  We have explored the methodology that is utilized in criminal justice research, including the survey, interview, observation, statistical data collection, and questionnaire methods along with applying them to our research hypothesis (Babbie & Maxfield, 2010).

Babbie, E., & Maxfield, M.G., (2010).  Basics of Research Methods for Criminal Justice and Criminology.  Second Edition.  United States, Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Driscoll, D.L. (2011).  Introduction to Primary Research: Observations, Surveys, and Interviews.  Retrieved From: http://wac.colostate.edu/books/writingspaces2/driscoll--introduction-to-primary-research.pdf
Siegel, L.J. (2010).  Criminology: Theories, Patterns, and Typologies.  Tenth Edition.  Belmont:    
             Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

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