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What Are the Limitations of Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Scientific Study of Crime and It's Control?

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  • May 2012
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What are the uses and limitations of qualitative research methods for the social scientific study of crime and its control?

One definition of crime is “behaviour that breaks the criminal law.” Crime is constantly changing because of our ever changing society; things that were not considered a crime become so. Though most people would argue that a criminal is someone who breaks the law; many people will break the law at some point in their lives and not be regarded as a criminal. The police are constantly applying different methods to control crime. “Crime control is a reconfigured complex of interlocking structures and strategies that are themselves composed of old and new elements, the old revised and reoriented by a new operation context (Garland, 2001: 23). There are a range of methods and forms of data used such as, ethnography, documentary/textual analysis, and focus group interviewing that provide ways of dealing with the problem of crime. Qualitative research plays a significant role in reducing crime; offering rich insights into the way people’s attitudes, beliefs and values determine their actions; and so is extremely important. Qualitative research is more concerned with what governs human behaviour rather than the blunt facts. In this way, qualitative research goes beyond the statistics and data which is the focus of quantitative researchers. Qualitative research starts from people’s expressions and activities in their local contexts.

Crime statistics are fundamental in determining the level, pattern and trends of crime. Official crime statistics are conducted by the police; these statistics in effect deal with all recorded crime. However, there are major concerns with the recorded crime data. Firstly, as officials only record reported crime, it is the decision of the victim whether or not they report the crime to the police. Victims may feel that the crime is insignificant and would be wasting police time. Or even that the police may not being...

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