Methods of Criminology and Criminal Justice Research: Volume 24

Cover of Methods of Criminology and Criminal Justice Research

Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Purpose – Statistics about the level of crime continue to attract public and political attention but are often presented in conflicting ways. In England and Wales, police-recorded crimes are no longer considered “national statistics” and, instead, the crime survey of England and Wales (CSEW) is used. However, it is not clear why partial population data (e.g., police-recorded crime) are considered less reliable or valid for measuring temporal crime trends in society than inferential statistical estimation models that are based on samples such as CSEW. This is particularly the case for approximating rare events like high-harm violence and specific harmful modus operandi (e.g., knife crime and firearms). In this chapter, the authors cross-reference victim survey and police-recorded data to determine similarities and contradictions in trends.

Methods – Using police data and CSEW estimates, the authors contrast variance and logarithmic trend lines since 1981 across a range of data categories and then triangulate the results with assault records from hospital consultations.

Findings – Change in crime rates in recent years is neither as unique nor extreme as promulgated in media coverage of crime. Moreover, analyses show conflicting narratives with a host of plausible but inconclusive depictions of the “actual” amount of crime committed in the society. The authors also conclude that neither source of data can serve as the benchmark of the other. Thus, both data systems suffer from major methodological perils, and the estimated crime means in CSEW, inferred from samples, are not necessarily more valid or accurate than police-recorded data (particularly for low-frequency and high-harm crimes). On the other hand police-recorded data are susceptible to variations in recording practices. As such, the authors propose a number of areas for further research, and a revised taxonomy of crime classifications to assist with future public interpretations of crime statistics.

Originality – There is much public and academic discourse about different sources of crime measurement yet infrequent analysis of the precise similarities and differences between the methods. This chapter offers a new perspective on long-term trends and highlights an issue of much contemporaneous concern: rising violent crime.


Purpose – The chapter explores the use of freedom of information (ATI/FOI) requests in social science research, with specific focus on using ATI/FOI requests in socio-legal studies, criminal justice studies, and criminology.

Methodology/approach – ATI/FOI requests constitute a novel method of data collection that has methodological and also epistemological implications for researchers.

Findings – The chapter explains how to use ATI/FOI requests in social science as well as how to navigate challenges and barriers ATI/FOI users regularly face.

Originality/value – There is a paucity of writings on use of ATI/FOI requests in socio-legal studies, criminal justice studies, and criminology. The chapter reveals the value of using ATI/FOI in social science and the originality of the data that ATI/FOI requests can result in.


Purpose – Criminal groups have long been central to explanations of crime and deviance. Yet, challenges in measuring their dynamic and transient nature meant that group-level explanations were often displaced in favor of individual-level ones. This chapter outlines how network methods provide a powerful tool for modeling the dynamic nature of criminal groups.

Approach – The chapter starts by providing a brief introduction to social network analysis, including key concepts and terminology. The chapter then focuses on the types of relational data available to study criminal groups, and how network methods can be used to delineate group boundaries. The chapter concludes by presenting a framework for understanding group dynamics from a network perspective, describing the contributions of network analysis to theories of group processes.

Findings – Network methods have provided meaningful advances to the study of group dynamics, leading scholars to revisit assumptions about the impact of group’ structure on delinquent behavior. Network studies of group dynamics have primarily focused on the cohesion–delinquency link (within-group structure) and the social contagion of conflict (between-group structure), highlighting important opportunities for the intersection of these two inquiries.

Value – Network methods provide a means to revisit and extend theories of crime and delinquency with a focus on social structure. The unique affinity between group dynamics and network methods highlights immense opportunities for expanding the knowledge of collective trajectories.

Part II: Special Groups and Problems


Purpose – This chapter presents some innovative ways in which researchers can collect survey data on various types of violence against women.

Methodology/approach – The suggestions made here are drawn from over 30 years of national, international, and local survey research.

Findings – The methods described in this chapter minimize underreporting, produce theoretically relevant data, and have meaningful policy consequences.

Originality/value – The research techniques reviewed here have made many important contributions to the field and the data they uncovered have helped raise public awareness about one of the world’s most compelling social problems.


Purpose – Exploration of the methodological aspects of male sex work is rather limited. Without a strong methodological toolkit to draw from, research in male sex work will not be able to accurately capture changes in the dynamic sex work environment. Thus, the author provides a comprehensive review of methods in male sex work along with a broad spectrum of methodological insights through which future research can be advanced.

Methodology/approach – Drawing from two studies that the author conducted in the male independent escorting space, this chapter provides a range of methodological insights and offers avenues for future research.

Findings – This chapter reviews the methods used in male sex work research over the years and details the lack of research on methodological inquiry in the field.

Originality/value – With the increasing normalization and dynamism of male sex work, it is necessary for the research to provide methodological guidance for the next wave of studies in the field. The recommendations and research directions proposed herein are hoped to have implications for research in the larger sex work context.


Purpose – This chapter will demonstrate the usefulness of mixed methods research in an understudied area of criminology and criminal justice, namely elder financial exploitation.

Methodology/approach – The data and research methodology described in this chapter come from a recently completed comprehensive case study of elder financial exploitation in Florida.

Findings – Elder financial exploitation is a growing social problem in the United States and there is little theoretical or empirical research available regarding the prevalence, risk factors, protective factors, and consequences. Given that the current status of the research literature is largely fragmented and discontinuous, conducting a survey aimed at validation was not possible. Through the mixed method case study involving a literature review, focus group discussions, and interview questions, the authors have developed a theoretical framework for elder financial exploitation that can be quantitatively validated.

Originality/value – This chapter provides justification for the expanded use of mixed methods research for other understudied topic areas within criminology and criminal justice and provides the foundation for the development of a comprehensive theoretical framework for explaining elder financial exploitation.


Purpose – In the midst of the second wave of data collection for a Comprehensive School Safety Initiative (CSSI) research project, a mass shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. This tragic incident provoked responses across the United States, including intense political discourse, organized student protests, and active shooter drills. In order to assess the potential influence of a major threat to school safety on the perceptions of adolescents, this chapter analyzes the survey responses of middle and high school students in St. Louis County.

Methodology/approach – Approximately one-third of the sample was surveyed prior to the shooting and the remaining students completed surveys within three months after the shooting. The authors examines the potential influence of the shooting on students’ reports on a number of school safety issues, including fear and perceived risk of victimization, likelihood of reporting guns on campus, and engaging in avoidance behaviors.

Findings – Results indicate that the shooting significantly influenced students’ perceptions of school disorder and likelihood of reporting a weapon at school, especially in white, less disadvantaged schools. The results also reflect meaningful effects based on the timing of data collection post-shooting, with many of the significant changes appearing within three weeks after February 14, 2018.

Originality/value – This study explores how external events may influence student perceptions of school safety. Moreover, this study offers a methodological contribution by demonstrating an assessment of the Parkland shooting as a potential threat to internal validity.

Part III: Crossing Boundaries


Purpose – The chapter explores the methodological challenges in doing community-based participatory research (CBPR) in social science investigations with immigrant women experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) in Canada.

Methodology/approach – The methodological comments, observations, and challenges discussed in this chapter result from research funded by the Social Science and Humanities Council, a branch of the Canadian Federal Tri-Council. The research that the authors conducted was both quantitative and qualitative in nature. The sample consisted of three groups of women: (1) immigrant women in Canada >10 years, (2) immigrant women in Canada <10 years, and (3) visible minority women born in Canada.

Findings – The chapter highlights some of the lessons learned in conducting CBPR research in the context of immigrant survivors of IPV. This discussion can be relevant to both academics and non-profit/advocacy agencies interested in pursuing community partnership research on interpersonal violence.

Originality/value – There is a paucity of writings on CBPR research in the social science and the challenges. This chapter reveals the methodological challenges that the researchers experienced in doing CBPR with racialized immigrant women who are survivors of IPV. This discussion can be relevant to both academics and non-profit/advocacy agencies interested in pursuing community partnership research on interpersonal violence.


Purpose – This chapter critically reflects on the author’s failed attempt to incorporate visual methods in follow-up research on immigration detention and deportation in Britain. In particular, it considers the uses and limits of participant-generated visuals, and the specific method of photovoice, which were originally conceived as a means to explore themes of home, identity, and belonging in and through practices of detention and release or expulsion.

Methodology/approach – This chapter discusses the visual method of photovoice to consider the uses and limits of participant-generated visuals.

Findings – Drawing on the notion of research “failure,” this chapter highlights the challenges and limitations of photovoice in follow-up research with individuals who were detained and/or deported, pointing to various methodological, logistical, ethical, and political issues pertaining to the method itself and the use of the visual in criminological research.

Originality/value – Criminologists are increasingly considering the visual and the power of photographic images within criminological research, both as objects of study and through the use of visual methodologies. This shift toward the examination, as well as integration, of images raises a number of important methodological, ethical, and political questions worthy of consideration, including instances where visual methods like photovoice are unsuccessful in a research project.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to examine the ways in which human trafficking has been measured through the use of agency record data.

Approach – The authors review the state of previous research on human trafficking using agency record data and the challenges that are important to consider when using agency records in the study of human trafficking.

Findings – Researchers have used agency records in a wide variety of ways to measure human trafficking victimization, perpetration, and patterns or case characteristics. Agency data provide unique contributions to understand human trafficking including the scope of the problem, predictors of victimization, and public perceptions of this crime. The authors describe the efforts to use agency records to estimate the prevalence of human trafficking in a statewide study.

Value – This chapter provides an overview of how agency records have been used in human trafficking research in recent years. Furthermore, this chapter includes a case study and methodological reflection on the use of agency records in a statewide human trafficking prevalence study. The authors conclude with a methodological reflection and considerations moving forward for future use of agency data in human trafficking research.


Purpose – This chapter examines how sentiment analysis and web-crawling technology can be used to conduct large-scale data analyses of extremist content online.

Methods/approach – The authors describe a customized web-crawler that was developed for the purpose of collecting, classifying, and interpreting extremist content online and on a large scale, followed by an overview of a relatively novel machine learning tool, sentiment analysis, which has sparked the interest of some researchers in the field of terrorism and extremism studies. The authors conclude with a discussion of what they believe is the future applicability of sentiment analysis within the online political violence research domain.

Findings – In order to gain a broader understanding of online extremism, or to improve the means by which researchers and practitioners “search for a needle in a haystack,” the authors recommend that social scientists continue to collaborate with computer scientists, combining sentiment analysis software with other classification tools and research methods, as well as validate sentiment analysis programs and adapt sentiment analysis software to new and evolving radical online spaces.

Originality/value – This chapter provides researchers and practitioners who are faced with new challenges in detecting extremist content online with insights regarding the applicability of a specific set of machine learning techniques and research methods to conduct large-scale data analyses in the field of terrorism and extremism studies.

Cover of Methods of Criminology and Criminal Justice Research
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Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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