Research Methods for Criminology and Criminal Justice Research Paper

Excerpt from Research Paper :

Today, social science researchers have a wide range of research methods available for criminology and criminal justice applications, divided generally between quantitative and qualitative methods. Although quantitative and qualitative research methods share some commonalities with respect to their overarching objectives, there are some fundamental differences involved that must be taken into account when selecting an optimal research strategy for a given research enterprise. The purpose of this paper was to provide an overview of quantitative and qualitative research methods applied to criminology and criminal justice settings, including a discussion concerning the similarities and differences involved in these two research paradigms. Finally, a summary of the research and important findings concerning research methods for criminology and criminal justice studies are provided in the paper’s conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Quantitative Research

Many of the same types of quantitative research methodologies that are used for other social science studies are also appropriate for criminology and criminal justice research, depending on the type of data that is needed to formulate informed answers to guiding research questions. Long regarded as the “gold standard” for social science researchers, quantitative research involves collecting and analyzing various types of numeric data (Neuman, 2008). This view about the superiority of quantitative research has been reinforced by the fact that quantitative research methods and procedures are typically clearly specified and frequently follow explicit protocols that enhance the trustworthiness of the findings (Goertz & Mahoney, 2012), making them especially valuable for criminological and criminal justice research (Guinto, 2011).

Although the objectives of quantitative research vary depending on the type of research questions that are involved, this research paradigm is primary focused on identifying the realities of criminological or criminal justice settings (Guinto, 2011). Moreover, it is possible to perform quantitative research in these contexts by developing novel metrics that serve to gauge the incidence of given quantifiable variables. In this regard, Guinto advises that, “To understand this process, several terms must first be identified. Concepts are abstract tags placed on reality that are assigned numerical values, thus making them variables. Variables are then studied to examine patterns of relation, covariation, and cause and effect” (2011, para. 4).

Here again, while the number of variables may vary depending on the quantitative research objectives, there are typically a minimum of one independent variable and one dependent variable involved in this research paradigm (Guinto, 2011). The dependent variable in quantitative research is commonly referred to as the “outcome variable” because it relates to what social science researchers are attempting to predict (Guinto, 2011). Conversely, the independent variable is typically referred to as the “predictor variable” since it is the variable that “causes, determines, or precedes in time the dependent variable” (Guinto, 2011, para. 7). While the process appears straightforward on its face, it is important to consider that the relationships between dependent and independent variables may vary widely depending on factors that may not be taken into account in the quantitative research design, constraining the interpretation of the findings that emerge (Neuman, 2008).

Notwithstanding these constraints, however, a vast body of scholarship has been developing concerning optimal strategies for conducting quantitative research that can help guide the process in order to provide the best possible results. For instance, social science researchers can use quantitative methods to identify the relationship between an independent variable such as impulsivity and a corresponding dependent variable such as criminal behavior (Guinto, 2011). Investigating this type of relationship involves creating a…

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…of data that is used, including those set forth in Table 3 below.

Table 3

Similarities and differences between quantitative and qualitative research



? Analysis for both involves inference wherein they both reach a conclusion based on evidence.

? Quantitative analysis is highly standardized and varies little between projects; qualitative analysis has many more possible approaches.

? Both involve comparison, either internally or with related evidence from elsewhere.

? Quantitative analysis tends to test hypotheses through the manipulation of numbers representing 'facts'.

? Both involve a systematic process.

? Quantitative analysis takes place at the end of data collection; qualitative analysis takes place during data collection.

? Both strive to avoid errors, false conclusions and misleading inferences and seek valid description and explanations.

? Qualitative analysis is less abstract, and does not assume that real life can be measured by numbers.

Source: Adapted from Gratton & Jones, 2009, p. 238

As can be readily discerned from the breakdown presented in Table 3 above, quantitative research provides a number of valuable attributers that make it particularly useful for criminological and criminal justice applications, but the process can be improved by combining it with some type of preparatory or follow-up qualitative research (Guinto, 2011).


The research showed that there are some fundamental differences between quantitative and qualitative research that must be taken into account when formulating an optimal research strategy for criminological or criminal justice studies. On the one hand, quantitative research is strictly focused on using some type of quantifiable metric in the form of numbers to develop informed answers to guiding research questions in a highly structured format while qualitative research…

Sources Used in Document:


Goertz, G. & Mahoney, J. (2012). A tale of two cultures: Qualitative and quantitative research in the social sciences. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Gratton, C. & Jones, I. (2009), Research methods for sport studies. New York: Routledge.

Groat, L. & Wang, D. (2003). Architectural research methods. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Guinto, W. (2011). Criminology and criminal justice research: Methods - quantitative and qualitative research methods JRank Articles

Li, J. (2008, March). Ethical challenges in participant observation: A reflection on ethnographic fieldwork. The Qualitative Report, 13(1), 100-104.

Neuman, W. L. (2008). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches, 6th ed. New York: Allyn & Bacon.

Observational versus experimental studies. (2016). Institute for Work & Health. Retrieved from

Richards, L. (2011, July). Seek and ye shall find. ABA Bank Marketing, 33(6), 87-90.

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