CRJU-485: Research Methods in Criminal Justice

Summer I Semester 2004


Dr. Tod Burke

307 Adams Street, Office 6B

(540) 831-6657 (office)  


About the Course:


This is a class about how we know what we know.  It is very important for you to be trained as a consumer and producer of research.  That is why this class is required of all criminal justice majors.  However, students often approach this class with reluctance, either because it has a reputation for being difficult or because the practical value may not be readily apparent.  It is true that some of the material in this course is challenging.  However, over the course of the semester we will work to demystify research methods and you will (ideally) see the value of the research process – and perhaps even discover that it is both worthwhile and fun (seriously!). 


It is important to note that, for the purposes of this class, “research” means going out and collecting data (through surveys, observations, interviews, etc.) in order to test a hypothesis.  It is important for you to see “research” as a sophisticated endeavor that moves beyond the library and into the “real world.”


It is also true that research methods is a valuable course – perhaps one of the most valuable you will take.  While “I’m taking this class because I have to” is a valid and pragmatic explanation, I think that the following justifications are better:


  1. Much of what you learn in other classes is the product of scholarly research.  It is important to understand how we’ve accumulated knowledge about criminal justice, as it has formed the basis for your other classes.


  1. As a criminal justice practitioner, you may be called upon to examine research.  For instance, in planning a community policing program, you’ll want to examine research about effective community policing programs.  It’s important that you be able to identify what good research looks like and that you be able to critically interpret research results.  This skill will also serve you well in your remaining career as a student.


  1. As a criminal justice practitioner (or graduate student) you may be called upon to conduct your own research.  For instance, let’s say you’ve just implemented a new drug court program.  You don’t want to just leave it at that – you (and your funding agency) will be very concerned about whether it actually achieves its goals (say, a reduction in recidivism).  You’ll use a research design, such as those we discuss in this class, to address that question.


  1. Finally, I assume that you are at Radford University because you want to learn.  It is a true mark of scholarship to understand how knowledge is produced and to contribute to the production of knowledge.  Doing research simply for the sake of learning about something – knowledge for knowledge’s sake – demonstrates an intellectual curiosity that is the mark of a scholar. 




One textbook has been ordered for this course:


W. Lawrence Neuman, Basics of Social Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches


In addition, a number of readings have been placed on reserve at the library.  These are indicated on the schedule.


Graded Activities:


  1. Final Project = 100 points


You will work in groups to complete a course project.  Further details will follow.


  1. Daily Exercises = 100 points


On a regular basis (i.e., practically every day), there will be a graded activity of some kind.  It may be an in-class exercise, an out-of-class assignment, an article presentation, and so forth.  Research methods is a subject that you “learn by doing,” so I plan to give you plenty of opportunities.  Your score out of 100 points will be determined using the following formula:




  1. Exams = 100 points


There will be two exams in the course.  Each is worth 50 points. 


Grading Scale:


I will assign a grade out of 100 points on your final project.  I will divide the number of points you earn by the number of points possible to determine a score out of 100 points for the daily exercises.  The two exams are worth 50 points each.  Accordingly, there are 300 points possible in the course.  The grading scale in this class will be:


          270-300 = A

          240-269= B

          210-239 = C

          180-209 = D

              0-179 = F


There is no extra credit available in this class.


Late Work:


I expect your attendance at every day’s class.  This means that you should be physically present in the classroom, PLUS you should be prepared to fully participate in the class.  Reading, sleeping, talking on cell phones, and other distracting activities are unacceptable and will result in your being counted absent. 


The only absences that will count as “Excused” are those for which you have a legitimate and documented excuse.[1]  Please consult me if you feel that you have an excused absence.  Unless your absence is excused, you may not make up any missed work or turn anything in late – don’t even bother to ask for an extension!


You are expected to arrive to class on time.  Students who fail to do so may have points deducted from their final grade and/or may be denied entry to the class.



Written Work:


All written work prepared out of class must be typed and demonstrate proper grammar and spelling.  Please refer to my paper writing guidelines, posted online.


Honor Code:


By accepting admission to Radford University, each student makes a commitment to understand, support, and abide by the University Honor Code without compromise or exception. Violations of academic integrity will not be tolerated. This class will be conducted in strict observance of the Honor Code. Refer to your Student Handbook for details. The Honor Code states:


"I do hereby resolve to uphold the honor code of Radford University by refraining from lying, from the stealing or unauthorized possession of property and from violating the standards of student academic integrity."


I take the Honor Code very seriously, and will diligently uphold it. You should, too. While not an exhaustive list, you should feel certain that I will refer the following cases to the appropriate University authorities, and recommend a grade of “F” for the course (see Student Handbook for details):


    1. Cheating on a quiz or exam
    2. Plagiarism in written work
    3. Fabrication or falsification of source material
    4. Having someone else complete your assignment




This is a demanding class.  It is essential that you take this course seriously and keep up with the work load.  Accordingly, here are my general expectations of you (and I will assume that you are doing these things).  If you can not do these things, please drop this class now:


  1. Complete all readings as assigned.  I will assume that you have finished readings prior to class.  Our discussions in class will supplement, rather than repeat, the readings.  If you don’t do the readings on time, you’ll find it difficult to follow class discussion.


  1. Attend classes regularly.  Participate in all class discussions and activities.  What we do in class will supplement the readings.  You may very well be tested over class discussions – and I will expect you to apply them to your final project – but you may not find the same material in the book.  Accordingly, attendance and participation are essential to your research methods learning experience.


  1. Don’t wait until the last minute to start assignments.  The out-of-class exercises may require some research.  The group project is something you will work on over the course of the semester.  Last-minute efforts are likely to fall short, resulting in an inadequate product and a low grade.


  1. Work well with your group.  Don’t be a slacker.  It will affect your grade.  Your group project is one-third of your final grade, and you certainly don’t want to jeopardize that.


  1. Plan to devote substantial time, outside of class, to this course.  I would recommend that you set aside regular times each week to do the reading, have group meetings, and so on – make it part of your regular weekly schedule.   


Schedule and Readings:


We will try to stick to the following schedule – however, it may be necessary to make modifications over the course of the summer.  Accordingly, this schedule is best viewed as “tentative.”    


Reading assignments from the text are listed by chapter.  All other readings are available from McConnell Library, either online or on reserve, as noted.


**Please consult your final project handout for details about final project due dates.**  All dates and topic selections are subject to change!!


Monday, May 17


Topic(s):       Course Introduction

                   Introducing Research

                   Writing and Citing

Reading(s):  None

Exercise(s):  Introducing Research; Detecting Plagiarism



Tuesday, May 18


Topic(s):       Doing Library Research

                   Hypotheses and Research Questions

                   Your Research Projects

Reading(s):  Chapter 4

                   Criminal Justice Research Handout, on Dr. Owen’s website

Exercise(s):  Library Research; Hypothesis Development


Wednesday, May 19


Topic(s):       Research, Science, and Knowledge

                   Overview: Types of Research Design

Reading(s):  Chapter 1

Fumento, M. (1998, August).  “Road rage” versus reality.  The Atlantic Monthly, 282, 12-17. (on reserve) 

Exercise(s):  Reading a Journal Article; Intellectual Curiosity; Road Rage Research Design (basic and applied)


Thursday, May 20


Topic(s):       Introducing Research Ethics

Reading(s):  Chapter 3

Exercise(s):  National Institute of Health Human Subjects Training; “Quiet Rage” Video Exercise


Monday, May 24


Topic(s):       Continuing Research Ethics

                   Critical Analysis of Research Designs

Reading(s):  You will be assigned one of the following selections, both of which are on reserve at the library:

1.      Milgram, S. (1969).  Obedience to authority: An experimental view.  New York, NY: Harper and Row.  Read chapter 2 and Appendix I. 

2.      Warwick, D. P. (1973).  Tearoom trade: Means and ends in social research.  In L. Humphreys (1975), Tearoom Trade: Impersonal Sex in Public Places (pp. 191-212).  New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter.

Exercise(s):  Role-playing the Institutional Review Board



Tuesday, May 25


Topic(s):       The Uses (and Misuses) of Theory

                   The Nature of Causation

Reading(s):  Chapter 2

Exercise(s):  Causality; Assessing Criminal Justice Theory


Wednesday, May 26


Topic(s):       The Language of Research

                   Reliability and Validity

Reading(s):  Chapter 5

Exercise(s):  The Language of Research I & II; Validity; Levels of Measurement


Thursday, May 27


Topic(s):       Sampling

Reading(s):  Chapter 6

Exercise(s):  Sampling I & II


Monday, May 31


          Memorial Day – No Class


Tuesday, June 1


Topic(s):       Surveys

Reading(s):  Chapter 7

McCabe, D. L. and Trevino, L. K. (1997).  Individual and contextual influences on academic dishonesty: A multicampus investigation.  Research in Higher Education, 38, 379-396

Exercise(s):  Scales; Analysis of Surveys; Writing a Survey


Wednesday, June 2


Exam #1 – Covers Chapters 1-6 and material through May 27


Topic(s):       Interviews

                   Focus Groups

Reading(s):  Ward, V. M., Bertrand, J. T., and Brown, L. F. (1991).  The comparability of focus group and survey results: Three case studies.  Evaluation Review, 15, 266-283. (on reserve)

Exercise(s):  Interview Role-play; Focus Group Role-play


Thursday, June 3


Topic(s):       Designing Experiments

Reading(s):  Chapter 8

Sherman, L. W. and Rogan, D. P. (1995). Effects of gun seizures on gun violence: “Hot spots” patrol in Kansas City.  Justice Quarterly, 12, 673-693.  (on reserve)

Exercise(s):  Designing an Experiment; Assessing an Experiment


Monday, June 7


Topic(s):       Nonreactive Observation

                   Content Analysis

                   Use of Existing Data

Reading(s):  Chapter 9

Hartman, D. M. and Golub, A. (1999). The social construction of the crack epidemic in the print media. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 31, 423-433. (on reserve)

Exercise(s):  Content Analysis; Observation


Tuesday, June 8


Topic(s):       Participant Observation

Reading(s):  Chapter 11

Jankowski, M. S. (1991).  Islands in the street: Gangs and American urban society.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.  Read pp. 6-18 and 119-135. (on reserve)

Exercise(s):  Participant Observation Design; Ethics and Participant Observation


Wednesday, June 9


Topic(s):       Historical and Comparative Research

Reading(s):  Chapter 12

Lindgren, J. (2002). Book review: Arming America and the Bellesiles scandal.  Yale Law Journal, 111. (available through Lexis-Nexis law journal search engine.)

Exercise(s):  Designing an Oral History; Lindgren and Bellesiles


Thursday, June 10


Exam #2 – Covers all course material


Topic(s):       Quantitative Analysis

                   Statistics Are Our Friends

Reading(s):  McCleary, R., Nienstedt, B. C., and Erven, J. M. (1982). Uniform crime reports as organizational outcomes: Three time series experiments.  Social Problems, 29, 361-372. (on reserve)

Exercise(s):  Crime Data I & II


Monday, June 14


Project Work Day[2]


Tuesday, June 15


Project Work Day


Wednesday, June 16


Project Work Day


Thursday, June 17


Group Project Presentations


Friday, June 18


Final Projects Are Due Today by Noon

[1] I will remain the judge of what constitutes a “legitimate” and “documented” absence.  Generally speaking, by “legitimate” I mean something like a hospitalization, funeral, court appearance, military service, and so on.  Routine doctor’s appointments, job interviews, work, etc., are not “legitimate” absences.  For documentation, I expect some written document that confirms your explanation. 

[2] This does not mean that classes are cancelled – you should plan on using these times to complete your group project.  In addition, I may want to meet individually with groups at these times.