Qualitative versus quantitative studies in criminal justice
Qualitative studies are typically those that wish to gain understanding regarding the interactions that take place within a certain social world. For example, someone wanting to study how gang leaders function in their world, how they interact with others (including gang members, leaders of other gangs, and regular people) and how they perceive their role in the community would find that a qualitative approach would be best. Some of the most common ways to conduct a qualitative study are observation, participant observation, and interviews. It is best to think of qualitative studies as wanting to understand the actual ways that a social world functions and how the participants in a particular social world go about living, working, interacting, and feeling about their place in that setting.
A quantitative study is where researchers typically want to identify whether or not a statistical relationship exists between variables and how strong or prevalent such a relationship is. For example, if someone wants to understand the relationship between individuals’ level of education and their tendency to commit property crime, then they would most likely have to examine this relationship through the quantitative approach. The most common way that this study would be conducted would be to use a survey or to construct measures of educational achievement and crimes committed from official sources, and then conduct statistical analyses to identify any potential relationships between the variables of education and crime type. Surveys in criminal justice and criminology official records are the most common form of data used for statistical analysis in quantitative social science studies.
Quantitative studies are favored by leading Criminal Justice journals.
Source : How to Write a Literature Review, Journal of Criminal Justice Education, Vol. 24, Issue 2, 2013, pp.218-234
Previous research has found that CCJ scholars rely heavily on secondary data resources (e.g. Uniform Crime Reports and National Crime Victimization Survey, NCVS) when conducting research (Kleck, Tark, & Bellows, 2006). Another large data source for CCJ researchers is the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), which has made numerous CCJ datasets available to researchers since the 1970s (Hagan, 2012).
The use of secondary data by scholars in CCJ is an attractive option for obvious reasons. First, the use of previously collected data eliminates the enormous amount of time associated with designing a research project and data collection. Naturally, then, secondary data analysis also reduces the financial cost of collecting original data. Two disadvantages of using secondary data include delays in public access to the data, along with the year(s) in which the data were actually collected. To date, virtually no attention has been paid to the age of data being analyzed and published in the field.
First, conducting primary data collection typically requires considerable financial resources. Receiving such financial resources through grant agencies is highly competitive and requires a considerable amount of time. This places junior faculty at a disadvantage because they have limited time to produce a body of scholarship that is tenure-worthy. In the absence of having such funds, untenured faculty are apt to mine data warehouses such as the ICPSR and the NACJD which store significant numbers of datasets ready for quick analysis. Interestingly, because reviewers for top-tier journals are receptive to articles formulated from these data reservoirs—even those with data older than 10 years—there is little incentive for scholars to collect their own data. In fact, because of the potential for these datasets to generate multiple articles, there is even less incentive.
Source : Is Criminology Out-of-Date? A Research Note on the Use of Common Types of Data, Journal of Criminal Justice Education, Volume 25, Issue 1, 2014, pp.16-23