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Research methods 2

CJ 260. Research Methods in Criminal Justice has three assignments that require students to think through what criminal justice

research entails (see below). This is Assignment #2. Each of these assignments offers a real-world scenario of criminal justice

research efforts. Your job is to carry out each assignment in accordance with instructions. Please try to submit your assignments one

assignment at a time. By doing so, you can learn from feedback provided by the instructor. Thus if the instructor points out weaknesses

in Assignment 1, you can strive to overcome these weaknesses in your development of Assignment 2, 3, etc.

There is no hard-and-fast length requirement for the assignments. In providing your responses, use your good judgment. While we are not

looking for extremely detailed and lengthy responses, neither are we looking for superficial answers comprised of several sentences.

The key is to provide enough detail in your responses to demonstrate you have mastery of the subject.

A helpful summary of the key components of a typical research process is contained as an Appendix to these assignments. You can find

the Appendix below the assignment.

Instructions:

A criminal justice researcher conducts a study to examine whether playing violent and aggressive video games contributes to criminal

behavior. She randomly assigns 12 yr-old boys in a middle-class suburban neighborhood to one of two groups: one group plays one hour of

violent and aggressive video games every day for a period of three months, and the other group plays one hour of non-violent, non-

aggressive video games every day for the same period of time. Before the game-playing phase of the study is launched, the researcher

interviews the subjects and their parents and teachers with a view of establishing a baseline of their behavior. Within a month of the

end of the game-playing phase, the researcher interviews the subjects and their parents and teachers to see if there is a notable

change of behavior in the subjects.

(no specific length requirement for your answers)

a. What is the hypothesis that the researcher is testing in this study?

b. What is the independent variable in this study? What is the dependent variable?

c. Why did the researcher randomly assign children to one of two groups? What did this accomplish?

d. The data for the study will be derived from interviews with the subjects, their parents, and their teachers. What limitations will

this reliance on interviews place on the study and the interpretation of results?

e. What practical issues will the interview encounter in running this study?

f. Conducting experiments with human subject always entails ethical issues. List two ethical issues that the researcher needs to

address.

g. Describe external and internal validity issues that this study will encounter.

h. Let’s say the researcher concludes that boys who play violent video games behave more violently after the experiment than those who

play non-violent video games. Can these results be extended to 12 year-old girls? Explain your answer.

i. Let’s say the study concludes that boys who play violent video games behave more violently after the experiment than those who play

non-violent video games. To what extent can these conclusions be used to predict whether playing violent video games lead to criminal

behavior in the long run?

j. Note that this study only investigates the short-term effects on behavior of playing video games (i.e., the post-experiment

interviews are conducted one month after the subjects have completed their game-playing). There are good reasons why the researcher did

not attempt to investigate impacts of game-playing over the longer term. Offer at least two reasons.
k. Suppose more research studies come out (experiments and correlational studies) after this one showing that children who play video

games with violent and aggressive content are more likely to be associate with unacceptable aggressive behavior as kids or as adults.

Social scientists (and you) are now quite convinced that playing violent and aggressive video games encourages long-term violent

behavior. Propose a theory (based on your own intuition) to explain this relationship.
APPENDIX

This Appendix offers a quick summary of the steps and components of a typical research project. It is offered to provide you with an

informal overview of what research efforts usually entail.

Conceptualization: This is where you conceptualize a problem in the criminal justice realm and think up reasons why this problem may

exist. You should start with a problem statement. The emphasis is on gaining some sort of empirical evidence to back up your findings.

What concepts are you trying to study?

Generation of a Hypothesis: This is your particular educated guess and stance on the issue. You are stating an outcome that you believe

in but that has not been proven with data as of yet. You are hypothesizing that there is a particular relationship or association

between at least two variables. Remember, the Null Hypothesis is that there is NO statistically significant relationship between the

variables. You are always trying to REJECT the Null Hypothesis so that your Hypothesis will gain credibility due to the careful

observations. You want the resultant findings to back up your hypothesis but you need to remain objective and open to different results

that you may not have expected.

Operationalization: This is where you determine how to make your constructs and variables “real” through data collection. This can be

done in different ways. For example:

• Through interviews, where you talk directly to people to obtain data
• Through questionnaires, where subjects provide data by responding to written questions
• Using “unobtrusive measures” that indirectly measure what you want to assess, e.g., identifying the most actively visited areas in a

museum by determining which area had the most frequent replacement of floor tiles
• Through experimental observation, where you conduct an experiment that generates data
• Through content analysis, where you count how often specific words are used, e.g., How often does Politician A mention “moral decay”

in his written and spoken communications
• Through data collection from published data sources, e.g., crime data published by the Justice Department

Variables: Name your independent and dependent variables. The independent variable(s) is what you expect will have an influence on the

outcome of the dependent variable(s). You must name your UA (Unit of Analysis). Your variables can be nominal, ordinal, or

interval/ratio. Nominal data are considerations such as Male/Female, Married/Not Married, White/Black. Ordinal data are rank-ordered

considerations, such as likely/somewhat likely/not very likely, often/somewhat often/ not very often, tall/medium height/short,

strong/normal strength/weak, like/somewhat like/dislike, age 10-15/ age 16-20/ age 21-25, 1-5 years stay/ 6-10 years stay, and so on.

Interval/Ratio data are considerations such as exact age (15 years old), exact height (5’9″), exact weight (165 lbs.), # of criminal

incidents (4), # of years spent in prison (15), yearly income ($40,000/year), etc.

Real World Observations (see Operationalization above): Discuss how you will make your observations in the real world. How will you

accumulate your date for statistical observation? You must choose a realistic data collection method. If your data consists of the

attitudes of Chiefs of Police of various police departments, you must answer how you will realistically gain access to these Chiefs of

Police since they are not easily approachable. You can also choose to utilize official records such as arrest records, court records,

jail records, school records, government records, etc. Another important avenue for criminal justice researchers is data from the NIJ

(National Institute of Justice). Also, from your studies you should recall other sources of data such as the UCR (Uniform Crime

Reports), the NCVS (National Crime Victimization Survey), and the NIBRS (National Incident Based Reporting System). These annual

reports hold a plethora of information that are of immense use to criminal justice practitioners.

Data Analysis: Now that you have collected your data you must determine how you will analyze it meaningfully. You can utilize a

regression analysis to look for a correlation between the variables. You can use descriptive statistics to plot the data on a scatter

plot and utilize the findings of a correlation coefficient analysis to see if there is a positive relationship between the data. There

are many ways you can analyze and interpret the data and it is up to you on the method you select but make sure it is appropriate for

the type of data you have compiled. You are not restricted to analyzing quantitative data. You can also focus on qualitative data,

e.g., summarizing the history of attempts to reduce crime in a given neighborhood.

Application of the Findings: Describe some meaningful applications that can benefit from your findings. This could deal with public

policy considerations where a particular ordnance is abolished or added. Maybe a mandatory minimum sentence is rolled back or more

funding is allocated to a particular location. The reason researchers study phenomena is so that their findings can be put into action

in a beneficial manner and this should be your focus as a criminal justice researcher.
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