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Research Terminology in Criminal Justice Research

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Research Process and Terminology

I know that to be proficient in research, one must know language and process. OK, I try to familiarize myself with research terminology as I use the terms to write and describe the research process. I need more ideas on the

• Include new terminology learned from the reading.
• How will this new terminology and knowledge apply to a career in criminal justice?
• How can not knowing the proper terminology affect you as you conduct criminal justice research?
• How will knowing these terms be an asset to you when evaluating and analyzing research studies or data.

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Ontology: This is a term used mostly by philosophers, but is important to all the social sciences and criminal justice. It is the study of existence, of being. It might be used in the context of social disintegration, where the ontology of a community is its norms, institutions, history and culture. One way to view it is as the essence of something, a prison system, a neighborhood or even a gang. It is the Being of such a thing, its essence, purpose and mode of functioning.

Epistemology: The study of knowledge. This is all-encompassing, since all research is epistemological. Yet, what sort of epistemological approach we use depends on the subject matter. Most of the time, we will use inductive methods, where we collect data and seek regular patterns that show the data are not random. In certain, more limited cases, we can use a rationalist or deductive reasoning where, from known facts, we tease out specific features intrinsic to it.

Method: This is closely related to epistemology. Yet, it is more specific. When we approach a certain topic, the method is not automatically obvious. It must be deduced from the nature of the data. If we are using surveys, then it is clear that we are using empirical methods and, more than likely, regression against variables relevant to that population.

Qualitative: This is descriptive research. It does not deal with numbers or other more formal measures of things Qualitative research deals with opinions, norms, morals, emotions, family disintegration, etc. These things are not readily operationalizable, that is, turned into numbers. When these variables are operationalized, they may distort the variables by leaving out aspects that are not easy to quantify.

Quantitative: This kind of research uses numbers. Certain data suggest themselves to this kind of research. If we are worried about the percentage of recidivism relative to the convict's ability to get a job and make a certain about of money as a result, we are dealing with (at least) three quantitative variables: the percentage of repeat criminals, getting a job (yes or no), and salary. All of these are numeric and can easily be entered into any regression software package.

Sources: This is not nearly as obvious as one might think. Our sources are the foundation of any kind of research whatsoever. Our sources must be reliable, accurate, and public (so they can be tested by others). Of course, not every research question will be this neat and tidy. Anonymous informants, for example, cannot be public or verified. The secondary literature on a topic might be biased, and hence, we must go elsewhere to get a differing view. Sources are either primary or secondary. The former is raw data taken from the population we are studying. Hence, an example of a primary source is a diary kept by a prisoner ...

Solution Summary

Research terminology in criminal justice research is examined.