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Research Methods in Crime and Justice
Chapter 10Survey/Interview Research Methods
Survey/Interview Research Methods
Surveys and interviewsare one of the most common social science data gathering techniques.They are particularly popular methods among criminal justice practitioners and scholars.The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the BJS’ National Crime Victimization Survey are important surveys in criminal justice.
Survey/Interview Research Methods
Surveysandinterviewsareany data collection method wherein individuals or groups are asked to respond to questions and/or statements.Aninstrumentis theactual questionnaire or document that isused to gather information from the respondents.Therespondentis the individual or group that is asked to respond to a survey.
Types of Surveys
There are four general types of surveys.Each has their own advantages and disadvantages.Mail surveyInternet surveyTelephone surveyInterview
Mail Surveys
AdvantagesLow costWide coverageAnonymityAvoids interviewerbiasDisadvantagesLow response ratesNo control of the conditionsLength limitationsPossibility of miscommunicationData entry error
Internet Surveys
AdvantagesLowest costWorldwide coverageReduces data entryerrorDisadvantagesPossible sampling biasLack of distribution lists
Telephone Surveys
AdvantagesWide coverageHigher response ratesBetter communicationReduces data entry errorDisadvantagesMore expensiveLength limitationsNo visual communication toolsNot possible to interrupt surveySampling biasDecreased use of landline phones
Interview
AdvantagesHighest response rateAllows for longer surveysControl of the conditionsBetter communicationReduces data entryerrorDisadvantagesMost expensivePossibility for interviewer biasVariation among interviewers
The Benefits of Survey Research
Survey research is useful for;Developing a community or group profile.Learning how people behave.Measuring attitudes, beliefs and opinions.Determining levels of knowledge.Predicting future trends and patterns.
The Limitations of Survey Research
Survey research is not useful for;Establishing causal relationships between variables.Measuring complicated or unknown social phenomena.Situations when respondents may not be truthful.Assessing whether the questions measure what they purport to measure.
The Survey Research Process
ACase Study inSurveyResearch(The Uniform Crime Reports and National Crime Victimization Survey)TheUniformCrime Reports (UCR)and theNationalCrime Victimization Survey(NCVS) are among the most important information sources in criminal justice.These information in these sources comes from surveys of police departments and interviews of crime victims.
The Survey Research Process
Askinga Research Question in SurveyResearchSurveys are effective for gathering information about how people behave.Among many other things, theUCR collects data on a limited number of crimes that are officially reported to the police andon crimesthat are cleared by an arrest.The NCVS collects information onvictimizationusing anationalsample of households.
The Survey Research Process
Conductinga Literature Review in SurveyResearchDuring the literature review survey researchers should pay particular attention to;How previous researchers defined concepts,What variables and attributes previous researchers used in similar projects, andThe instruments and formats used by previous researchers.
The Survey Research Process
Conducting a Literature Review in Survey Research – cont’dBecause the UCR and NCVS are on-going, researchers involved in their administration do not typically conduct extensive literature reviews.The crime categories in the UCRand NCVS haveremained relatively constant fordecades in order to allow annual comparisons.The decrease in the number of landline telephones has recently challenged the NCVS because it relies on a telephone survey.
The Survey Research Process
Refiningthe Research Question in Survey ResearchBecauseproduce descriptive information,hypotheses arenot usuallyrequired.Since their purpose is to produce descriptive data, the UCR and NCVS do not use formal research hypotheses.Theresearch questions that drive both surveys have changed only slightly over time.
The Survey Research Process
DefiningConcepts and Creating Measures in SurveyResearchConceptual definitions must be consistent throughout the survey researchprocess, and if necessary communicatedtotherespondents.There are differences in how the UCR and NCVS surveys define ‘crime’.The UCR focus is on reported crime and it must reconcile differences in how states define various types of criminal behavior.The NCVS defines crime from the victim’s perspective.
The Survey Research Process
Designinga Method in SurveyResearchThe first decision a survey researcher asks is what format would be most advantageous.After that the focus should be on developing good research questions that;Avoid confusing,Consider the literacy of the respondents, andAdhere to the rules of mutual exclusivity and exhaustiveness.
The Survey Research Process
Designing a Method in Survey Research – cont’dBeyond the general considerations for developing questions, survey researchers should avoid;Using jargon, slang or uncommon abbreviations,Opinionated or emotional language,Double barreled questions,Prestige bias,Asking questions the respondent cannot answer, andLeading questions.
The Survey Research Process
Designing a Method in Survey Research – cont’dNext, researchers should develop response sets for each question. The options include;Direct response setsOpen response sets,Closed or forced choice response sets,Reversals
The Survey Research Process
Designing a Method in Survey Research – cont’dThe ordering of survey questions is also a consideration.The most challenging, important or controversial questions should appear at the beginning of the survey.Instructions come in two forms.How to answer the questionsHow to return the completed instrument.
The Survey Research Process
Designing a Method in Survey Research – cont’dThe length of the survey is of critical concern.Shorter surveys increase response rates.All survey instruments should bepretestedwith a small sample of respondents to see if they will work as intended.
The Survey Research Process
Designing a Method in Survey Research – cont’dThe UCR instrument began on paper in the 1930’s and, with the exceptions of the progression onto a computer format and the introduction of NIBRS, the questions have changed very little.The NCVS has always relied on a telephone survey instrument. In recent years the survey has added questions on school crime and attitudes about the police and crime.
The Survey Research Process
CollectingData in SurveyResearchThe format of the survey dictates how the information is collected from the respondents and transmitted to the researchers.It is important for survey researchers to ‘build in’ systems that will increase the response rate.Choosing the appropriate format for the respondents.Using postcards and reminders.Including coupons or small gifts.
The Survey Research Process
CollectingData in SurveyResearch – cont’dBecause the UCR and NCVS are ongoing, implementation is constant.The UCR makes use of an extensive network of state repositories and trainers.For all practical purposes participation in the UCR is required.Because crime is a relatively rare even the NCVS must ‘oversample’ the population.
The Survey Research Process
AnalyzingData in SurveyResearchUnless survey responses are entered directly into adatabase theresearcher will need a systemforentering the responsesintoa database.Thisprocessis calledcoding.
The Survey Research Process
AnalyzingData in SurveyResearch – cont’dEfficient and accurate coding of survey responses begins during the development of the survey instrument.Many researchers include subscripts on the survey instrument to guide the data entry process.After the data are entered into an electronic format the researcher can conduct its analysis.
The Survey Research Process
AnalyzingData in SurveyResearch – cont’dThe most well known statistic available from the UCR is the crime rate, sometimes called the index crime rate.It represents the number of reported crimes per 100,000 residents.The NCVS calculates similar rates.In addition, the NCVS makes use of its data to describe the contexts of criminal victimization.
The Survey Research Process
Interpretingthe Results of Survey ResearchThe interpretation of survey data is as much art as it is science.Calculating a statistic is relatively easy. Explaining what it means is more challenging.Problems in the instrument’s design are often revealed at this step, unless the researcher has conducted a thorough pretest.An honest assessment of the survey’s limitations is essential.
The Survey Research Process
Interpretingthe Results of SurveyResearch – cont’dNeither the UCR nor the NCVS is designed to measure crime quickly. There is often a substantial timelag.The UCR provides a limited ‘picture’ of crime in that it only includes reported crime.The NCVS only measures criminal victimization at the national level.
The Survey Research Process
Communicatingthe Findings from SurveyResearchSurvey researchers are often asked to justify their conceptual definition and operational measures.Often reports on survey results include tables describing the respondents.The decision about where to report the results of a survey really depend on the intentions of the researcher.
The Survey Research Process
Communicatingthe Findings from SurveyResearch – cont’dTheUCRpublishes anannualreports calledCrime in the UnitedStates.This report is widely circulated and often reported in the media.The NCVS is conducted and published less frequently.Because of their influence on criminal justice policy, both the UCR and NCVS reports are subjected to extensive internal editing prior to their publication.
Getting to the Point
Surveysare a data collection method wherein individuals or groups are asked to respond to questions and/or statements.Thismethod involves developing aninstrument, which the researcher uses to ask questions and record answers.Theindividuals or groups that respond to the survey are referred to asrespondents.
Getting to the Point
There are four general types of surveyformats;mailsurveys,internetsurveys,telephone surveys,andinterviews.Eachformat has its advantages and disadvantages.Theformat chosen depends on the researcher’s objectives, the research context and the respondents targeted.
Getting to the Point
Survey research is effectivefor;developingcommunity or groupprofileslearninghow peoplebehave,measuringattitudes, beliefs andopinions,determininglevels ofknowledge,andpredictingfuture trends and patterns.
Getting to the Point
Survey research is not effectivefor;determiningcausal relationships betweenvariables,andmeasuringcomplicated or unknown social phenomena.Surveysshould not be used when the honesty of the respondents is important to the research and their responses cannot be independently verified.Itis often difficult to determine the validity of a concept or construct measured through a survey response.
Getting to the Point
Generally speaking,surveys areeffectivefor research questions that describe a particular;groupor sub-population,setof behaviors and beliefs, and/orrelationshipbetween variables.
Getting to the Point
In addition to the usual information researchers look for when conducting a literature review, survey researchers should pay particular attentionto;howprevious researchers defined similar concepts,measuredkeyvariables,anddesignedsurvey instruments.
Getting to the Point
Because most surveys are intended for descriptive and exploratory research, hypotheses that predict causal relationships between variables are not usually found in survey research.Instead, survey researchers develop hypotheses that predict relationships between variables and/or refine research questions about particular phenomena.
Getting to the Point
Defining and measuring concepts is especially important in survey research.Conceptsand measures should be consistent throughout the survey research process.Moreimportantly, survey researchers must be sure that the respondents interpret the concepts and measures as they were intended to be understood.Thisis normally done during a preliminary test of the survey instrument.
Getting to the Point
In general, survey questions should be written clearly and at a level that is appropriate for the respondent’s level of education and experience.Inaddition, survey researchers should adhere to the rules of mutual exclusivity and exhaustiveness when writing response sets.
Getting to the Point
Survey questions and statements should not contain jargon, slang, uncommon abbreviations, emotional language and prestige bias.Inaddition, survey researchers should avoid asking double-barreled and leading questions.Finally, survey questions should be ‘answerable’.
Getting to the Point
There are three basic types of response sets.Directresponse sets allow the respondent to enter specific information into a blank space or box.Openresponse sets also allow the respondent to write their own responses to questions, but are more open to interpretation than direct response sets.Closedor forced choice response sets specify a standard set of responses from which the respondent must choose.
Getting to the Point
Question order, survey instructions, and survey length are critical considerations in survey design.Themost challenging and important questions should be placed at the beginning of asurvey.Surveysshould include an introduction to the survey, specific instructions for answering each question, and concluding instructions on how to return the survey.Shortersurveysimprove the response rate.
Getting to the Point
A preliminary test of the survey instrument in an environment and with a small representative group of respondents is essential for ensuring the success of a survey instrument.Thepurpose of this step is to determine whether the respondents will understand the survey and whether the survey instrument will produce the kind of data necessary to answer the research question(s).
Getting to the Point
The response to a survey can be improvedby;appropriatelytiming when the survey is administered,askingwell designed questions,sendingreminder post cards, andprovidingincentives to encourage the respondents to answer.
Getting to the Point
The use of subscripts on written survey instruments enhances accuracy during the data entry phase.Thisis known ascodingthe data.Oncedata are entered, researchers can use various statistical techniques to analyze survey data.
Getting to the Point
The interpretation of survey results is often more art than science.Thefocus of the interpretation should be on answering the research question(s) as comprehensively as possible.Tofully interpret survey results, researchers should consider the limitations of their data.
Getting to the Point
The most important part of a survey research report is thedetailed description of the researcher’s method.Surveyresearch reports also typically includea description of the respondents.Thedecision about where to report the results of a survey depends on the intentions of the researcher and the audience they would like to reach.
Research Methods in Crime and Justice
Chapter 10Survey/Interview Research Methods

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_-Research Methods in Crime and Justice - Routledge