Measuring Crime and Deviance:
-We are first talking about methodological strategies, and next week we will talk about sources.
The Epistemology of Crime and Deviance
• What do we know about crime and deviance?
• How do we know what we know about it?
• How is this knowledge acquired?
• Do we really know that much about crime and deviance after all?
• From where do we get our information about crime and deviance?
-We are talking about the epistemology of crime and deviance. Epistemology is the study of knowledge. What is the
structure of knowledge, etc.
-Related to that are important questions (see above). These questions are important because deviance is difficult to study.
It is hidden, people who do it usually know its wrong, we deal with morals, etc. At the end of the day, do we really know
much about crime? Yes, but there’s also a lot we don’t know.
-Where do we get our information about crime? Media, personal observations, government agencies, communities, police.
-Thus there are direct and indirect sources. Direct would be witnessing a crime or engaging in crime. Indirect would be
media, family, TV, etc.
What We “Know”
Common Sense Social Science
-Limited in scope -Rules govern observations, findings, and conclusions
-Unsystematic -Design and sampling, tactics for observation
-Research is not just data collection - it starts with a problem, has goals and plans, is guided by hypotheses, and accepts
-We get a lot of information that is common sensical. It may or not be accurate. For example, the idea that prostitutes are
the main carriers of HIV. This is common sense, it may make sense, but it probably doesn’t.
-In social science, the study is more systematic. There are rules to be followed in terms of how to observe, how to sample,
etc. The goal is to get an unbiased picture that will get to a systematic, unbiased picture. Research starts with a problem.
You have plans, an rules governing your conclusions. Also, the research is open to scrutiny. How would you study murder
for example? Look at available information (homicide rates), see what has been written, etc. You would also have to
decide on how you will define murder. (see next)
What Shapes our Methodological Strategies?
• Availability of data?
• Social theory?
• Methodological preference?
• What factors would shape how YOU would research crime and deviance?
-These are things to consider in deciding t undertake a research question. Social theory is one of the most important. How
does social theory differ from ideology? See next
Ideology Social Theory
-Absolute certainty, has all the answers -Negotiated certainty, recognizes uncertainty
-Fixed, closed, finished -Growing, open, expanding
-Avoids tests, discrepancies; blind to opposing evidence -Welcomes tests, all evidence; changes based on
-Locked into moral belief -Detached from moral belief
-Highly partial -Neutral
-Contradictions, inconsistencies -Seeks logical consistency
-Rooted in a specific position -Transcends/crosses social positions
-Ideology has all the answers, social theory recognizes uncertainty. Social theory is built to be proven wrong. It is
designed to be tested.
-Ideology is fixed and closed and it avoids tests.
-Ideology is locked into moral belief while social theory is detached from it.
-Ideology is partial and social theory tries to be neutral. For example, social theory on deterrence makes it clear that
deterrence doesn’t work, but sometimes it does.
-Experiments -Field Research
-Content analysis -Interviews
-Secondary analysis -Discourse analysis
-Cross-sectional -Case Study -Longitudinal
Assumptions- Social facts have objective reality; primacy of method; variables can be identified and relationships
measured; outsiders POV
Purpose- Generalizablity; prediction; causal explanations
Approach- Begins with hypothesis/theory; manipulation and control; uses formal instruments; deductive; reduced data to
numerical indices; abstract language in write-up.
Research Role- Detached and impartial; objective portrayal
-Much of this is based on large aggregate studies. They have often a positivistic or essentialist tone. The research method
is on the forefront with the purpose being generalizability. We will also talk about causality (two things that are related,
possibly causing each other).
-In the approach, they start with a hypothesis/theory, develop the controls, use formal instruments (a survey for example.
Thus, it is a deductive approach. Bottom line is you start with the idea.
-The researcher role is objective.
Logic based on natural sciences
Allows for manipulation
Control groups - one receives ‘treatment’
Ask people questions
Can use questionnaires or coded interviews (coding the info into quantitative numerical data)
Examine information or content in a written or symbolic ma