Research Process and Terminology

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Research Process and Terminology The most important part of describing the research process in criminology and criminal justice research methods consists of being familiar with terminology. The knowledge of proper terminology can be an asset when evaluating, and analyzing research studies or data. However, not knowing the proper terminology when conducting research could affect an officer’s report negatively. Those interested in the study of criminology and criminal justice has a wide range of research methods. Following the research process will strengthen the chance of obtaining a successful, well researched project. Research is the systematic process of collecting and analyzing information (Shuttleworth, 2008). Research includes any gathering of data, information, and facts for the advancement of knowledge (Shuttleworth, 2008). Many of the terms used in an everyday conversation originated in social science research (Hagan, 2010, p. 4, para. 1). Once the criminal justice professional has become familiar with the terminology used in the research process, the criminal justice professional will be able to provide technical reports, academic concepts, and provide the discoveries of his or her research. The research process begins with problem formulation. Problem formulation is to review, selection, and specification of the area to be investigated (Hagan, 2010, p. 19). Researchers organize research by formulating and defining a research problem. Before attempting to solve a problem, researchers must first define the problem. The more difficult it is to define the problem, the harder he or she has to try. Once the problem formulation is complete, researchers can stay focused on the research process (Shuttleworth, 2008). The second process is research design. Research designs are the type of experimental or nonexperimental approach, studies of groups over time, and use of control groups (Hagan, 2010, p. 19). A design is used to structure the research, to show the major parts of the research project. The function of a research design is to ensure that the evidence obtained allows the researchers to answer the initial question as clearly as possible. Social research must first have a design or a structure before data collection or analysis can commerce. To test a theory and evaluate a problem accurately, one must obtain relevant evidence that specifies the type of evidence needed. The third process is data collection methods. Data can be collected in many ways such as: observation, surveys, focus groups, reanalysis of existing data, questionnaires, and interviews (Hagan, 2010, p. 19). Data collection is an important aspect of any type of research. Inaccurate data collection can affect the results of a study and ultimately lead to invalid results. Two forms of data collection methods are; quantitative methods, and qualitative methods. In quantitative research, concepts are assigned numerical value, and concerned with measuring social, or criminal justice reality (Hagan, 2010, p. 4). In qualitative research, concepts are viewed as sensitizing ideas or terms to enhance understanding of reality under investigation (Hagan, 2010, p. 14). Whereas, qualitative research emphasizes a verstehen approach, which means understanding or empathy, in which researchers immerse themselves in the subject matter and develop empathetic understanding, the quantitative approach favors studying “phenomena that can be measured, observed, and examined empirically” (Hagan, 2010, p. 14). The fourth process is analysis and presentation of discoveries. The analysis and presentation of discoveries include summarizing, reporting, and statistically analyzing appropriate presenting discoveries (Hagan, 2010, p. 19). Crime analysis allows the analyst to determine who is doing what to whom by focusing on crimes against persons and property (Gottlieb, Arenberg, & Singh’s, 1994, p. 15-16). Crimes against persons and property include homicide, rape, robbery, burglary, and theft. Intelligence analysis aids the determination of who is doing what with whom by focusing on the relationships between persons and organizations involved in illegal activities (Gottlieb, Arenberg, & Singh’s, 1994, p. 5-16). Illegal activities include narcotic trafficking, prostitution rings, organized crimes, gangs, and terrorism. Operations analysis enables the analysts to ascertain how an agency uses the internal resources (Gottlieb, Arenberg, & Singh’s, 1994, p. 15-16). The operations analyst focuses specifically on the examination of personnel deployment and workload distribution patterns. Investigative analysis is used in the investigation of unusual or serial homicide cases (Gottlieb, Arenberg, & Singh’s, 1994, p. 15-16). The investigative analyst uses crime scene evidence and information regarding the background of victims to develop physical, behavioral, and psychological profiles of the suspect responsible for the crime. The last process is conclusion, interpretations, and limitations (Hagan, 2010, p. 19). Conclusions are based on several factors of the research process, validity, and reliability of the measurement (Shuttleworth, 2008). Validity encompasses the entire experimental concept and establishes whether the results meet all of the requirements of the scientific research method (Shuttleworth, 2008). Reliability is that any significant results must be more than a one-off finding and be inherently repeatable (Shuttleworth, 2008). In conclusion the general steps in empirical research in criminology and criminal justice is described as: problem formulation, research design, data collection methods, analysis and presentation of findings, and conclusions, interpretations, and limitations. As a criminal justice professional, not knowing the proper terminology of the research process could affect him or her negatively. When a criminal justice professional conducts an investigation on a burglary, or homicide case, it is vital that the criminal justice professional is familiar with the proper terminology. If a criminal justice professional is not familiar with the proper terminology he or she is risking the entire investigation and possibly thrown out from court. Knowing the proper terminology when evaluating and analyzing research studies or data could improve criminal justice professionals investigations and reports. In the end the criminal justice professionals receive a proper conviction owed to the suspect, and justice to victims.

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