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CRM 3012 Research Methods in Criminal Justice

Course Description

Introduces basic research concepts and methods in criminological research. Includes APA format, software use, methodology, design, validity, data analysis, and interpretation.

Course Objectives

An in-depth examination of criminal justice research methods, providing a thorough understanding of the research techniques important in the field of criminal justice.  This course will encourage students to become more informed consumers of criminal justice statistics and figures, weeding out the significant from the insignificant and identifying problem areas or unanswered questions.

Whether students will be performing research in their future occupations or not, it is most assured that they will be dealing with the findings of such research, often making decisions based on the results, making this course an essential tool in the Criminal Justice toolkit.

Week 1

Lecture: Introduction


  • Identify the different types of realities and why we accept them
  • Describe the roles of tradition and authority as sources of second-hand knowledge
  • List the differences between variables and attributes
  • Define the purposes of research and the different avenues of inquiry
  • Explain the basic ethical issues of criminal justice research
  • Describe the difference between quantitative and qualitative data
  • Summarize the relationship between theory and observation
  • Identify a theory and give examples of research spawned by that theory
  • Give examples that illustrate deductive and inductive logic
  • Differentiate between objectivity and subjectivity
  • Distinguish between a theory and a paradigm
  • Discuss the relationship between theory, research and public policy
  • Identify the different types of harm that can result from engaging in criminal justice research
  • Recognize deception in the research process and understand when deception may be acceptable
  • Describe the role of institutional review boards

Week 2

Lecture: Issues in Research Design


  • Explain the role of causation in the social sciences
  • List the three criteria for causality
  • Discuss the difference between necessary and sufficient causes
  • Define the relationship between validity and causal inference
  • Identify the types of validity: statistical conclusion, internal, construct, and external
  • Define scientific realism
  • Use and recognize units of analysis in a research project
  • Recognize the errors that can occur with the interpretation of units of analysis
  • Explain the role that time plays in the research process
  • Identify a cross-sectional study and when it is appropriate
  • List the types of longitudinal studies and when each is appropriate
  • Discuss the research process from the standpoint of logical order
  • Define the elements of a research proposal

Week 3

Lecture: Concepts, Operationalization, and Measurement
Lecture: Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs


  • Identify a conceptual definition and develop operational definitions
  • Describe operational definitions and use them as specific measurements in a scientific study
  • Explain exhaustive and exclusive measurement
  • Differentiate and recognize the levels of measurement
  • Differentiate reliability and validity; recognize the different types of tests for reliability and different categories of validity
  • Identify the UCR and the NCVS as measurements of crime and their purposes
  • Identify police-based measures and the errors they may contain
  • Compare the UCR and the NIBR and identify their strengths and weaknesses
  • Identify the measuring of crime through the use of victim surveys
  • Compare victim surveys and crimes known to police
  • Identify measurement of crime through self-report surveys
  • Discuss the validity and reliability of self-report surveys
  • Identify alternative reasons for measuring crime; for specific research and policy purposes
  • Describe how experimental designs are used in explanation and evaluation research
  • Explain the classical experiment and how it can be used in criminal justice research
  • Discuss the use of independent and dependent variables in experimental designs
  • Differentiate between the traditional use of experimental and control groups
  • Differentiate between randomization in subject selection and assignment to groups
  • Describe the threats to validity (internal, external, construct, and statistical conclusion) and how those threats can be controlled
  • Identify the variations to the classical experimental design
  • Explain the quasi-experimental designs and their variations (nonequivalent groups, cohort, and time series)
  • Recognize and critique the use of experiments in criminal justice research

Week 4

Lecture: Data Collection and Sampling Procedures


  • Identify the three ways of collecting data: asking questions, direct observation, and examining written records
  • Give examples of the various research scenarios that employ different techniques or a combination of techniques for collecting data
  • Recognize that probability sampling helps the researcher generalize back to a population of unobserved cases
  • Recognize that both conscious and unconscious sampling bias can occur and they should be able to give examples of each
  • Recognize that the basic principle of probability sampling is that all members of the population have an equal chance of being selected for the sample
  • Define and identify a sample element, a population, a population parameter and a sample statistic
  • Identify the bell-shaped curve or normal curve means
  • Define the role of the standard error and how to decrease its presence
  • Discuss confidence levels and confidence intervals and know why they are important for the ability to make inferences
  • Explain the role of random sampling in probability theory
  • Identify the different types of sampling designs along with the advantages and disadvantages of each
  • Distinguish the types of sampling designs used by the National Crime Victimization Survey and the British Crime Survey and how they differ
  • Articulate the differences between probability and nonprobability sampling techniques along with when each is appropriately used

Week 5

Lecture: Survey Research
Lecture: Field Research


  • Identify the different topics that are appropriate for survey research
  • Give examples of survey designs in the counting of crime, self-reports, perceptions and attitudes, policy proposals, and targeted victim surveys
  • Describe the difference between open-ended, closed-ended, matrix, and contingency questions
  • Identify the format and organization of questionnaire items that maximizes responses
  • Recognize the procedures used in self-administered, mailed questionnaires
  • Explain the acceptable response rate
  • Discuss computer based self-administration and when its use is appropriate
  • Explain the role of the interviewer in the use of in-person interview surveys
  • Define computer-assisted interviewing along with the advantages and disadvantages
  • Discuss telephone surveys and how computers can assist in this process
  • Compare the three methods of asking questions with respect to cost, speed, and question content
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of survey research
  • Explain specialized interviewing
  • Explain the role of focus groups in criminal justice research
  • Articulate the advantages of using professional survey researchers
  • Discuss the value of observing life and human interaction in its natural setting as a form of research
  • List the methods of obtaining data for field research
  • Differentiate between quantitative and qualitative data as they apply to field research
  • State the topics which lend themselves to field research
  • Identify the difference between the various roles of the researcher when doing field research
  • Identify when a field researcher may want to supplement the observations with interviews or other data sources
  • Recognize the process of gaining access to subjects in both formal organizations and subcultures
  • Know the techniques used for selecting people or cases for observation
  • Identify the different techniques and options available for collecting and recording field observations
  • Describe the use of surveys and official records in combination with field research
  • Retell the examples of field research offered in this chapter which illustrate the topics of the role of researcher, selection of subjects, and data-gathering techniques
  • Articulate the strengths and weaknesses of field designs and give examples of each

Week 6

Lecture: Agency Records, Content Analysis, and Secondary Data


  • Identify the three sources of existing data and their application in criminal justice research
  • Identify topics that are appropriate for the use of agency records
  • Identify the different types of agency records: published statistics, nonpublic agency records, and new data collected by agency staff
  • Discuss units of analysis in the use of agency records and the methods of sampling from these records
  • Discuss threats to reliability of agency records
  • Discuss threats to validity of agency records
  • Modify content analysis
  • Differentiate between the types of coding in content analysis
  • Discuss the sources of secondary data
  • Examine the advantages and disadvantages of secondary data
  • Compare and contrast agency records, content analysis, and secondary data

Week 7

Lecture: Evaluation Research and Policy Analysis


  • Distinguish the different types of evaluation research
  • Recognize the role of policy analysis
  • Identify the different types of situations where evaluation research is appropriate
  • Discuss the policy process
  • Identify the difference between process evaluation and impact assessment
  • Recognize when the evaluability assessment is appropriate and why
  • Define stakeholders and their role in the research process
  • Discuss the problems inherent in measuring program delivery
  • Identify the treatment integrity and how it can impact evaluation studies
  • Describe the techniques that are appropriate for evaluative studies
  • Examine the role of policy analysis in politics and research
  • Describe the relationship between politics and objectivity with respect to research

Week 8

Lecture: Interpreting Data


  • Describe the differences between descriptive and inferential statistics
  • Define univariate analysis and give examples of its use
  • Define the concept of distributions
  • Explain the three measures of central tendency and be able to discuss how they are related
  • Define the measures of dispersion and be able to discuss how they are related
  • Compare the measures of dispersion with the measures of central tendency
  • Compute a rate
  • Explain the descriptive statistics which are applied when two or more variables are under study
  • Construct and read a percentage table
  • Define the multivariate analysis
  • Explain the inferential statistics
  • Describe and interpret tests of statistical significance
  • Describe the cautions that are present in the interpretation of interpreting statistical significance

The course description, objectives and learning outcomes are subject to change without notice based on enhancements made to the course. February 2012