Methods in Criminal Justice
Criminal justice study covers a broad range of relationships. In large part, the success of the study is defined by the tools employed. In any research, such tools are methods. The current paper is designed to explore whether and why it is justified to use qualitative research methods in criminal justice. To achieve this goal, the author first looks into the essence of qualitative research, then discusses major qualitative research methods, and finally exemplifies how these methods can be used in criminal justice research.
What is qualitative research?
In broad terms, qualitative research can be described as an approach that allows examining social and individual experiences in detail (Hennink et al, 2010). One of the most prominent features of qualitative research is that it gives an opportunity to identify issues from the perspective of the subject’s of the study – interviewees, respondents and other participants (Hennink et al, 2010). In other words, qualitative research reveals how study participants interpret certain occurrences, objects or behavior. In criminal justice, for instance, qualitative research may reveal how inmates perceive the reality of confinement to correctional institution and how this perception affects their behavior. Qualitative research has a particular value in social sciences. Social science, as its name suggests, is concerned with society and relationship between individual in society.
Social science covers many aspects of human activity such as economy, politics, law, psychology and so on. Before qualitative research became more or less conceptualized and popular, social researchers relied on the assumption that they understand what subjects of their research say and do and from this understanding they elaborated explanations for certain events, trends, behavior and so on (Packer, 2010). If one takes the earlier example about inmates, such an approach would mean that researcher would visit a correctional facility and observe the inmates, without inquiring in detail about how they perceive the confinement, and would make his conclusions from what he or she believes their experiences are. Basically, earlier social science essentially ignored how the social word is perceived and understood by their actors. The introduction of qualitative research cured this deficiency. As it has been mentioned earlier, qualitative research reveals social reality from the perspective of its actors and thus offers a deeper, broader and more accurate insight into such reality.
What are major qualitative research methods?
Although qualitative research involves a wide range of methods, here only major methods are described. One of the major methods is participant observation. Participant observation can be described as a field strategy that covers interviewing the respondents, document analysis and direct participation, introspection and observation (Flick, 2009). The method suggests that the researcher should gain access to the field and persons, who are the object of his or her study, and also becomes a participant (Flick, 2009). In the earlier example about inmates, the field is a correctional facility and the persons, who are the object of the study, are inmates. The second phase of participant observation is focused observation – narrowing …