CRIM 2653 Lecture Notes - Lecture 15: Semi-Structured Interview, Content Analysis, Sociometry

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16 Aug 2016
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-find out how the authors use the questions to answer the question
-research question should be very specific and focused
-you will be engaged in an in-depth interaction with a relatively small group
-do a lot with little
Workable Research Questions:
-begin with a research topic, an idea or phenomenon in criminology that you are interested in
-decided what aspect of that topic you are going to look at
-decide the general topic area and then ask yourself, what is it that you want to know about this
topic?
-in general, once we have established the topic and the question, think about 3 points:
1) answerable: a practical sense: even though we’re not conducting the research, the
research has to be reasonable, as if we can answer the question with the research we
are presenting..answerable in conceptual terms as well..think about it in the practical and
conceptual sense..don’t cover too much, which is the biggest issue..
2) interconnectedness: can you establish a meaningful connection between your research
question, the way you will answer it, and (?)..if one is going to use in-depth semi-
structured interviews to obtain the data, but will use content analysis, that is
problematic..why did we choose this form of data-collection?
3) substantively relevant: your research design should be sufficiently focused, in such a
way that you never really diverge from trying to find the answer to that research
question..it is easy to ask too many questions..think about what the question is and the
ways to answer that question..use tried and true methods..structure your research
question and research design along the research that is already done
Role of Research Question:
-research question is really important..it gives coherence to the entire project..it puts limits on
the research project
-it delimits the project
-provide a framework for your write-up
-point to methods and data that will be needed
-it is the first sentence in your write-up
-it points to the methods and data that will be required when we begin structuring the research
design
Good and Bad Questions:
-bad questions are questions that might lead us to using causal language, such as what are the
causes that lead to?
-what are the factors and processes of X?
-if one asks what the cause of something is they presume a causal explanation between two
things..there are finite causes that always lead to the result and that assumes a kind of
mechanistic way of how things arise
-there may be intervening factors or variables
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-the main difference between a causal analysis and the kind of how or why question that is
approved is that how or why questions are exploratory, so there is no presumption that the
researcher will find a generalizable mechanism that occurs reliably in all cases
-these questions are also more contextually sensitive and they tend to demand that we
understand the background and history of the situation
-if we know that only a tiny portion are psychopaths, then only a tiny portion of them are violent
or become habitual violent offenders, and we want to know why some of these people become
violent offenders and why some others don’t..
-what are the factors that all 350,000 share?
-that is too difficult..but we can ask how or why they become such individuals
-explore the topic in an open-ended way
-the focus comes from the sample; time, place, language, culture, and other things
-how do people experience x?
-as researchers, we want to capture as much as that variation as much as we can
-when doing qualitative research, we must be very clear about the people we’re studying
-the categories, the topic, have to tie to the population, which will have certain features and
characteristics that we look for
-context counts
Lit Review Questions:
-read 3 peer-reviewed journal articles
-ask yourself some basic questions
-where does the study fit into the relevant literature?
-where does the article fit in with the rest of the literature?
-the author will tell you what methods they are working with
-we have to align ourselves with some methodological approach
-we either reject this literature or accept it
-how does the proposed research add to the literature, in a number of different ways, by testing
the theory or method in a different place or different time, refining the data-collection instrument,
changing the interview strategy, or applying a different method (as opposed to relying on in-
depth interviews, you use focus groups)
Challenges to the Research Focus?
-don’t try to lay the research question and design..don’t try to reinvent it
-make sure not to pick a topic that is not attainable
-access is a big problem
-think about access and availability when doing the assignment
-it is okay to identify the hidden assumptions in your own work
-how do you convince the institution that the academic research you are conducting is credible
Solutions to Research Challenges:
-use existing literature
-use concepts from your discipline
-find techniques to narrow down your research problem:
1) flow
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2) charts puzzles
3) zoom lens
-timing different research questions
-advice for grand theory
Use Concepts from Your Discipline
-use concepts and categories that are derived from criminology and reflective of the political,
social, and historical context in which you are doing your research
-general concepts like family take different meanings in different social situations
-you must recognize the contextual specificity of what it is you are studying
-participants in any social situation actively create their own contexts
-language can vary, such as its meanings
Choose the Appropriate Method:
-what is it that I want to research and know?
-we might want to know what people experience..we will look at what they say, how they
recount their experiences, we will more likely use open-ended interviews to get the data we
want
-if using field observation, we may use a more constructivist theory which entails unobtrusive or
participant observation
-if we want to know what the underlying discourse is, we may use constructivist theory, as it is
dependent on the researcher to engage in a linguistic analysis of the text we are studying..it is
linguistic..a mix of quantitative and qualitative analysis..
-all of these choices of method will have an impact on your study
-if we choose one method of data-collection, those methods will impact how we interpret the
data
Field Interviewing:
-ethnographic researcher: most common form of research in criminology
-field interviewing is the most predominant method of qualitative research:
1) structured interviews: pre established questions, fixed answer, such as “agree, strongly
agree, and other range of possible answers..
2) semistructured interviews: most common kind of field interview..they bring several open-
ended questions..they ask more questions depending on the responses they get based
on the response..they force you to do an interview frame, which is a set of questions that
must be asked in the same order of every participant you interview..so long as it is
employed properly, it gives an internal validity..
3) unstructured interviews: no schedule or predetermined answers..open-ended questions
and participant observation
Field Observation:
-obtrusive or unobtrusive
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