The Scientific Method

Purdue University Global


In order to prevent crime and protect citizens, there must be research done in order to isolate and find ways to combat the problem. This can require extensive research on behalf of the department in order to determine the types of crimes, the areas in which are most affected and what methods to use in order to fight the problem.

The method that is used in this instance is called the Scientific Method. This method has five steps that are relevant to the field of criminal justice. Each step of this method is equally as important as the others, as they interlink to create a whole and allows the researcher to observe whether the issues are being addressed fully, if the methods are the correct ones used for the issues and possible repercussions later.

Larger, metropolitan areas can employ the use of crime analysts, specialists whose job is to analyze crime reports and crime data in order to identify, isolate, research and propose methods in which to battle the particular crime issues in a given area. Once these measures are employed, it is then their responsibility to collate and interpret the data that is collected about the effects of the measures that were employed. Of course, there are other responsibilities that are associated to the crime analyst, but as this paper is concentrated on the five steps of the scientific method, I will gloss over them as the paper continues .

The first step of the scientific method is that of observation and research. This is the step that focuses on isolating the issues that are causing problems, as well as the areas that are most affected by those issues. An issue must first be recognized as a problem in order to proceed to the next step in the scientific method .

Before delving into the other steps, what exactly comprises the step of observation and research? This step involves the researched gathering data of a region’s crime reports and calls for service. Once this data has been gathered, it is then time to analyze and collate the data into such forms as tables and reports, allowing for the department to be informed of the trends and patterns. These trends can then be monitored further, and once it has been determined that a particular area(s) is having an ongoing issue, the second step of the scientific method is then employed .

The next step of the scientific method is that of the hypothesis. In order to delve into the second step, the definition of a hypothesis must first be presented. What is a hypothesis? A hypothesis is basically a conjecture, a theory pressed forward that has little evidence to support it previously. Now, when speaking about a hypothesis in the criminal justice spectrum, the individual can analyze measures taken by other departments for the same issue, as well as forming theories on their own recognizance that they believe will work to effectively address the issue .

To give an example of a hypothesis in action, I will give a hypothetical criminal justice scenario. A community is suffering from ongoing issues of robbery and assaults after dark. The community is calling for measures to be put in place to make the neighborhood safer and less prone to crime. As the department is aware of the situation, the ongoing issues and the areas that are plagued with the issues in question, they must now think of measures that can be taken to help battle the problems.

The department decides to speak with other departments about their issues dealing with the same type of crime. They write down the measures that were taken by the departments and attempt to decide on workable solutions that would benefit the community. Actions that could be proposed could be streetlights placed in the affected areas, increased police presence and perhaps even starting a neighborhood outreach program that helps to utilize the community in keeping their neighbors safe .

The third stage is prediction, this is where the department attempts to predict the results of the measures to be taken. What is the possible outcome of the streetlights being placed in the vulnerable areas of the community? How will the community react to a neighborhood outreach program? Will the increased presence of officers deter offenders from committing crimes in the area? These questions and more can be pondered .

The fourth step of the scientific method is that of the experimentation phase. This stage is where the measures that have been chosen to address the issues are implemented. If increased police patrols were one of the measures chosen, this is where the scheduling of officers and implementing increased patrols would take place. If streetlights are a measure that has been determined to be of a helpful nature, it is then time to analyze the neighborhood to decide where they would give the best benefit and then put them in place .

The fifth, and last, step of the scientific method is that of the conclusion, or the results of the experiment. This step is where the department would gather, interpret and collate the data starting from the time of the measures when they were implemented. If the calls for service and police reports are gathered in the months since the implementation of the measures taken, then this data can give the department a general idea of how the measures taken are working .

If the results gathered are not to the community’s and the department’s satisfaction, then the process can begin again. The department can hypothesize new measures to be taken, possible predictions can be made and then the experimentation phase to try to find the best measures to deter crime.

Now, it is time to discuss research methods and designs that can be utilized in the course of criminological research. There has been one design with which this paper has hinted at, that is when it was discussed about the implementation of specific measures to an affected area and then to analyze the data as it pertains to the measures taken over a period of time. This specific method of research and design is called the experimental design.

The experimental design is one that is rarely used in the field as researchers tend to lean towards other methods of research design. The experimental design, however, does have its place in criminological research, as discussed earlier. The process of placing more streetlights or increased patrols is an experiment, as the results will be used to determine whether the measures used is the most effective measures, or if other measures should be implemented. This is the basic definition of an experiment, as it is trial and error to try to find effective methods for crime control.

The experimental design is an example of the quantitative research design. The quantitative design focuses on hard facts based on numbers, and the results of the experiment determine whether or not the experiment has been successful. This design is focused on statistics, the question of how many, instead of the why did it happen .

Another method of research for criminological issues would be that of the survey. This is one of the most widely used methods, as it gathers and collates data from individuals within a chosen group. This method is good for issues involving safety concerns within a community, and could easily be implemented by a department via a questionnaire mailed out to the neighborhood. These questionnaires could then be returned to the department in question for the data to be analyzed and collated in order to formulate a response that would suit the issues presented .

The survey would be considered part of the exploratory research design: The reason for this is because the purpose behind the survey is to recognize issues, to determine specific problems via research through individuals within the neighborhood, and it is not looking to offer solutions. This design is the perfect beginning for the start of criminological research which is, of course, observation and research to gain insight into existing issues

Field research is yet another method that can be employed by the department in order to determine attitudes and behaviors within the community. This method can include law enforcement officers taking note of particular behaviors on the part of citizens during the course of their shift. Such behaviors that could be of note would be whether areas within the neighborhood are avoided, if there is any peculiar behavior on the behalf of citizens in the given area that might lead the officer to believe that the area might be home to criminal behaviors, i.e. prostitution or drug dealing, or even just taking note of the conditions of the neighborhoods on their beat as this can possibly denote an area of concern .

Field research is considered a qualitative design. The qualitative design has the observer viewing and taking note of interactions and behaviors. This design is favored because it is considered the design for real life situations, as it allows for the observer to take part in the collection of the data while interacting with other individuals .

In conclusion, research is an extensive process within the criminal justice field. It is undertaken often within departments in order to recognize issues and to determine measures to combat them. This can be done in several different ways, including those which have been discussed within this paper. It is imperative that proper research methods are employed before implementing measures in order to avoid greater problems than those with which the departments are hoping to prevent.