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Criminal Justice & Criminology Research Methods Essay

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Updated: Jun 10th, 2022

Inaccurate and selective observation: How to prevent, in criminal research, errors related to inaccurate and selective observation?

In criminal research, the inquiry process has a foundation, which is perceived to be observation. In most cases, it is difficult to comprehend why things appear in their statuses devoid of the presentation of certain things that must be understood. In fact, before giving an explanation on why something transpired, it is prudent to know exactly what that thing is. Nevertheless, since individuals observe carelessly the course of life events, they inaccurately and selectively perceive things. Thus, to reduce such errors, individuals need to make cautious observations based on deliberate plans. For instance, people need to observe and note events that happen in life deliberately. That is, people need to use both complicated and simple strategies to assist in guarding against errors related to selective and incorrect observations (Maxfield & Babbies, 2014).

Conversely, selective observation accrues as a result of overgeneralizing events that happen. For example, when an individual develops a universal understanding that a certain pattern normally exists; such a person is likely to assume that future events are similar and would overlook others that are not similar. The error related to selective observation can be reduced by conducting a similar study several times based on adequately large samples to check whether identical outcomes are attained every moment this is done (Maxfield & Babbies, 2014).

Social science theories: How does research contribute to the development of criminological theories?

In criminology, the developments of criminological theories have undergone various phases since Guerry (1863) and Quetelet (1842) first applied positivists’ methods. The moral statistical researchers studied the variation in the approved rates of crimes committed over a given period. The research conducted gave the same results and conclusions. That is, the officially recorded statistics showed that increased crime rates accrued from social activities, thus, giving birth to social theory in criminology. The effort put by these researchers in trying to tackle scientifically the emerging criminal problems was not biological but social (Heidt, 2011). The moral statisticians offered a foundation for developing criminological theories, which have since gone through a transition from positivism to classicism. In fact, most of the current criminological theories are informed by the official statistics offered in the study carried out by the first positivism researchers.

However, instead of focusing on society, the current criminological theories are based on studies that are rather focusing on the criminal actors. For instance, when the evolutionary theory emerged from the epic studies offered by Darwin (1859, 1871), researchers shifted their focus to the biological characteristics of criminality from the social traits. The individual differences theory developed by Lombroso (1876) centered on the significance of the physical aspects that distinguished non-criminals from criminals. The study has nonetheless become obsolete, but the positivists’ technique applied still has a permanent effect when devising criminology theories (Heidt, 2011). Therefore, the current theories in criminology have their roots in the previous and current studies conducted on criminal acts and crimes, which are based on sociological, physical, and biological attributes.

Threats of reliability and validity: How does the process of operationalizing study variables impact reliability and validity in criminological research?

In criminology research, a study is deemed reliable and valid when the results are similar and consistent if the same study is carried out again. Such findings are warranted by operationalizing the study variables. In most cases, operationalizing study variables ensures that a sample representing the entire population is chosen and an appropriate unit of analysis is applied. Every study variable appears to be well-defined operationally at similar levels of behaviors, traits, altitude and thought (Hartley, 2010). That is, through operationalizing study variables, any variable that would creep into the research and contaminate the research findings are screened out and the most suitable study methods and design are used. Study variables are operationalized provided the conceptual description is taken and made comprehensive enough by relating it to different operational definitions, concrete or specific indicators. Thus, operationalizing study variables warrants internal validity and reliability since it ensures that spurious study variables are screened out and consistent measurement tools are used to moderate errors caused by the user. Besides, operationalizing variables helps in defining a suitable timeframe for conducting the research, which increases the level of reliability and validity of the research study (Hartley, 2010).


Hartley, R. (2010). Snapshots of research: Readings in criminology and criminal justice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Heidt, J. (2011). The evolution of criminological theories. Burnaby, Canada: Simon Fraser University Library Press.

Maxfield, M. & Babbies, E. (2014). Research methods for criminal justice and criminology. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

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