Research Methods in Criminal Justice and Criminology

Chapter 2

Frank E. Hagan

  1. Research in criminal justice and criminology faces many ethical hazards.  How concerned should researchers be with ethical conduct in research?  What is the researcherís role and what constitutes appropriate conduct?
    1. The researcher must be very concerned with ethical conduct in research.  For instance, researchers must be careful not to perform research fraud, or plagiarism.  Each of these actions are not only unethical, but could severely effect the process of researchers for others, and in effect disrupt the research of criminal justice.   Other misconduct would include negligence, deception, cover-ups of misconduct, misuse of funds etc.

The role of the researcher may at times conflict with oneí role as a criminal justice practitioner.  A researcher must be objective when reporting on subject matter.  Whereas the practitionerís role is to prevent and process criminals, the researcher, who is a neutral observer, may have conflict. 

  1. The regulation of ethically acceptable research conduct may take one of three forms .  Discuss these and include your opinion as to which of these is most effective.
    1. One form is a code ethics and institutional review boards.  The second is procedures imposed by the federal government and the third is legal regulation in the courts.  I would think that the code of ethics and institutional review boards would be most effective considering they are the most personal and may effect a persons position a research grant.  In this way the code of ethics is being enforced from within the field.
  2. How did the new HHS guidelines resolve the principle objections of field researchers to the informed consent issue?
    1. The principle objections of field researchers to the informed consent issue was resolved primarily by the Belmont Report which established three basic principles:  the principle of respect for persons, the principle of beneficence, the principle of justice.  In respect to the principle of respect for persons, the person is to be treated as an autonomous agent, and this if this is diminished, they have the right to protection.  In regards to the principle of beneficence the research can not be harmful and that possible  benefits be maximized and possible harm should be minimized.  And finally the principle of justice called for all harms and benefits to be distributed evenly through all subjects.
  3. What are some elements of a code of ethics for criminology/criminal justice research?
    1. Some elements of a code ethics are

                                                               i.      Adhere to the highest possible standards in research

                                                             ii.      Aknowledge the the limitations of their findings

                                                            iii.      Do not misrepresent their findings.  Publish their complete results, along with the method used.

                                                           iv.      Aknowledge all the financial support and sponsorship of the research

                                                             v.      Do not made any commitments to individuals unless there is full intention to honor them

                                                           vi.      Researchers should make available, after their own analysis, available the raw data at a reasonable price, so that other social scientists may make analysis

                                                          vii.      Make adequate information and citations concerning scales and other measures used in the research

                                                        viii.      Researchers should not accept grants or research assignments that appear to violate this code.  If they find anything in their research that violates this code than they should stop

                                                           ix.      When financial support is accepted, the researcher should make every possible effort to complete the project

                                                             x.      When more than one person is working on a project, before research begins, an agreement must be made as to division of work and ownership of the research.

For a complete record of these, refer to page 53-56

The major ones that should be mentioned and are the most important are:  Avoid research that may be harmful to subjects, Honor Commitments to Respondants, Exercise Objectivity and Professional Integrity, Protect Confidentiality


  1. Discuss some examples of researcher misconduct.  Why does this occur and how can it be prevented?
    1. Some misconducts would include, extreme violence (The Ofshe Case page 63) confidentiality, libel and slander One way to prevent ethical problems is to carefully consider alternate means of data gathering.  Another way would be to use pseudonyms and publish aggregative rather than individual data.








Research Fraud (40):  When researchers purposely lie or misrepresent their findings.

Plagiarism (41):  A writer presents the ideas or work of someone else as his or her own.

Role of Researcher (42):  Requires one to be objective when reporting on a subject matter.

Professional Ethics (44):  Following a certain code of ethics within a profession.

Ethical Principles for Criminal Justice Research (44-45):  Calls attention to contemporary issues that neither policymakers nor researchers may have considered in a systematic manner.  These principles and applications have to be tailored for each individual research project.

HEW Guidelines for Protection of Human Subjects (45):  This was the most important source for guidelines in research.  It required that grant recipients follow its stipulations.

Institutional Review Boards (45):  Research screening committees set up in colleges and universities to oversee the ethical propriety of research

Informed Consent (46):  Making subjects aware of the study going to be performed on them and requiring that they sign a form indicating they have been notified.

The Belmont Report (47-48):  See answer to number 3

NIJís Regulations on Confidentiality (51):  protects individuals by forbidding the use of any research or statistical information that might identify them.

Shield Laws (52):  This is a government immunity from prosecution, a state guaranteed right to confidentiality for researchers if they are subpoedaed.

Risk/Benefit Ratio in Research (57):  Potential benefits must outweigh the possible hazards to respondents

Reciprocity (58):  Mutual trust between the researcher and the subject.  The researcher must keep all promises made during or after the study.  The researcher would not have had any information without the help of the subject, so embarrassing the subject or not keeping promises is not appropriate

Confidentiality (60):  Researchers are required to keep this.  Researchers do not expose individuals and their findings.

Pseudonyms (63):  Fake names.  Used to keep confidentiality