Identify and describe the four purposes of research in criminal justice.
Research exists as a means to describe, explore, explain, and evaluate and is the primary tool for advancing a body of knowledge. By conducting research related to the crime and the criminal justice field as a whole, students, scholars, criminal justice professionals and government policy makers identify what works and what doesn’t. This improves the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement agencies, corrections, and crime prevention. Students who conduct research learn to think critically which helps them professionally in the future when they are developing new policies. (Hall, 2017)
Descriptive research attempts to define and describe the social phenomena under investigation. Exploratory research seeks to identify the underlying meaning behind actions and individual behavior. It can also be the initial research which has been conducted to later formulate a hypothetical or theoretical idea. This is accomplished when a researcher has an idea or has made an observation that he wishes to clarify details of or understand more about. Because it is wrong to duplicate another researcher’s work and call it your own, the researcher must conduct research from the start to discover if this work already exists or has already been theorized. (Kowalczyk, 2018) Explanatory research seeks to identify the causes and effects of social phenomena. Evaluation research seeks to determine the effects of an intervention on individual behavior.
Hall, S. (2017, June 05). The Purpose of Learning Research in Criminal Justice. Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://legalbeagle.com/6201020-purpose-learning-research-criminal-justice.html
Kowalczyk, D. (2018, February). Purposes of Research: Exploratory, Descriptive & Explanatory. Retrieved May 19, 2019, from https://study.com/academy/lesson/purposes-of-research-exploratory-descriptive-explanatory.html
Maxfield, M. G., & Babbie, E. R. (2016). Basics of research methods for criminal justice and criminology(4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Provide a basic criminal justice example for each of the 4 purposes of research identified in question 1 above (it may be easier to provide a separate example for each purpose).
Tim, a straight-A student and the Senior President of student council at Villa Park High School is the model student. Not only is he kind to the less popular kids in the cafeteria, he also volunteers at Big Brothers of America and works as a Sunday school teacher in his spare time. Tim was recently caught red-handed fondling one of the little boys in his Sunday school class. The pressure and humiliation from being arrested in front of his parents, his girlfriend, his pastor, and his whole church was too much too much for him, so he escaped from police custody the first chance he got and jumped off a bridge instantly dying.
Descriptive research would help define what has happened in this situation and the criminal charges Tim would have faced if he had not ended his life. Gathering more information helps the parents of the little boy he molested help him cope.
Exploratory research seeks to discover how many children Tim may have molested, how long it has been going on, and if it ever went further than just touching on top of the clothes. It also assists the church staff in vetting a replacement Sunday school teacher.
Explanatory research seeks to discover what led to Tim’s unexpected sexual behavior. Interviewing his parents, friends, and anyone else close to him as well as reviewing his personal computer and social media accounts might reveal if he was sexually abused as a child or struggling with a sexual addiction.
Evaluative research of this case would reveal the effect Tim’s behavior had on the surrounding community. Did the molested boy begin to behave aggressively or have to begin speaking to a therapist because of it? How did the congregation react to the news of his behavior and his death? What repercussion did this have on Tim’s parents? Were they publicly humiliated? These are just a few of the things a researcher would want to discover.
Explain the relationship among the 4 purposes of research? Can some purposes stand on their own?
All 4 types of research are related and essentially build off each other. Descriptive research acknowledges that there is a problem and seeks to define said problem while exploratory research seeks to discover the extent of the problem and how long it has been going on. The purpose of explanatory research is to determine what caused the problem and what could have been done to stop it. Evaluative research assesses the damages that a problem caused and what can be done to prevent it from happening again in the future.
Let’s say you are driving down the highway and everything seems to be running fine when all of a sudden, your vehicle shuts off. In a panic, you do your best to steer the vehicle to the shoulder where it is safer. When you are safely pulled over, your passenger who just so happens to be a mechanic jumps out to look under the hood and see what may have caused that to happen. He immediately notices that the battery is disengaged. He says that rather than risking it from happening again in a more populated area, the vehicle should be towed to his shop instead of just re-installing the battery. At your friend’s shop, he runs a series of diagnostic tests on the vehicle to see what happened before figuring out what happened and fixing it. Your buddy knows you’re short on cash, so he fixes it for free this time. He also gives you very specific instructions for how to care for your vehicle moving forward so this doesn’t happen again. Your buddy not only noticed a problem, defined it, assessed the damage to the vehicle, and fixed it but also examined what can be done to prevent this from happening again in the future. His actions demonstrate the relationship between the 4 purposes of research.
A Chief of Police has started a task force to identify the location of the highest crime areas. Based on the 4 purposes of research, determine the best research purpose(s) for this project. Explain your reasoning.
The chief needs to know where to focus his resources, but he also needs to know what type of resources to allocate. He already knows that there is a problem – high volumes of crime – so descriptive research has essentially already been conducted and will not be necessary in this scenario. The chief does not yet know the full extent of what types of crime are occurring or the rate at which they are happening. For these reasons, I feel that exploratory research is necessary and appropriate. Assuming that the researcher(s) do not have access to crime mapping technology, they should begin by assessing where the lowest income neighborhoods are in the city, interviewing police dispatchers, police officers, reporters, citizens, and anyone else who might have a solid knowledge base about the community. Next, the researcher should physically go out into the community at varying times of the day or night to see what is going on. The chief also needs to know who or what organization (gangs, mafias, social clubs…etc.) are committing the most crimes. Should he find the root of the problem, he will be able to quickly put an end to a lot of crimes and make them stop. Obviously, it is more complicated than that, so he needs explanatory research conducted to discover more about the local gangs, approximately how many members they have, and who their rivals are. Gang violence is a very serious problem and can devastate a community, so evaluative research must also be conducted to assess the effect it is having on the community.