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Dissertation Structure & Layout 101: How to structure your dissertation, thesis or research project.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) Reviewed By: David Phair (PhD) | July 2019

So, you’ve got a decent understanding of what a dissertation is , you’ve chosen your topic and hopefully you’ve received approval for your research proposal . Awesome! Now its time to start the actual dissertation or thesis writing journey.

To craft a high-quality document, the very first thing you need to understand is dissertation structure . In this post, we’ll walk you through the generic dissertation structure and layout, step by step. We’ll start with the big picture, and then zoom into each chapter to briefly discuss the core contents. If you’re just starting out on your research journey, you should start with this post, which covers the big-picture process of how to write a dissertation or thesis .

Dissertation structure and layout - the basics

*The Caveat *

In this post, we’ll be discussing a traditional dissertation/thesis structure and layout, which is generally used for social science research across universities, whether in the US, UK, Europe or Australia. However, some universities may have small variations on this structure (extra chapters, merged chapters, slightly different ordering, etc).

So, always check with your university if they have a prescribed structure or layout that they expect you to work with. If not, it’s safe to assume the structure we’ll discuss here is suitable. And even if they do have a prescribed structure, you’ll still get value from this post as we’ll explain the core contents of each section.  

Overview: S tructuring a dissertation or thesis

  • Acknowledgements page
  • Abstract (or executive summary)
  • Table of contents , list of figures and tables
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Literature review
  • Chapter 3: Methodology
  • Chapter 4: Results
  • Chapter 5: Discussion
  • Chapter 6: Conclusion
  • Reference list

As I mentioned, some universities will have slight variations on this structure. For example, they want an additional “personal reflection chapter”, or they might prefer the results and discussion chapter to be merged into one. Regardless, the overarching flow will always be the same, as this flow reflects the research process , which we discussed here – i.e.:

  • The introduction chapter presents the core research question and aims .
  • The literature review chapter assesses what the current research says about this question.
  • The methodology, results and discussion chapters go about undertaking new research about this question.
  • The conclusion chapter (attempts to) answer the core research question .

In other words, the dissertation structure and layout reflect the research process of asking a well-defined question(s), investigating, and then answering the question – see below.

A dissertation's structure reflect the research process

To restate that – the structure and layout of a dissertation reflect the flow of the overall research process . This is essential to understand, as each chapter will make a lot more sense if you “get” this concept. If you’re not familiar with the research process, read this post before going further.

Right. Now that we’ve covered the big picture, let’s dive a little deeper into the details of each section and chapter. Oh and by the way, you can also grab our free dissertation/thesis template here to help speed things up.

The title page of your dissertation is the very first impression the marker will get of your work, so it pays to invest some time thinking about your title. But what makes for a good title? A strong title needs to be 3 things:

  • Succinct (not overly lengthy or verbose)
  • Specific (not vague or ambiguous)
  • Representative of the research you’re undertaking (clearly linked to your research questions)

Typically, a good title includes mention of the following:

  • The broader area of the research (i.e. the overarching topic)
  • The specific focus of your research (i.e. your specific context)
  • Indication of research design (e.g. quantitative , qualitative , or  mixed methods ).

For example:

A quantitative investigation [research design] into the antecedents of organisational trust [broader area] in the UK retail forex trading market [specific context/area of focus].

Again, some universities may have specific requirements regarding the format and structure of the title, so it’s worth double-checking expectations with your institution (if there’s no mention in the brief or study material).

Dissertations stacked up


This page provides you with an opportunity to say thank you to those who helped you along your research journey. Generally, it’s optional (and won’t count towards your marks), but it is academic best practice to include this.

So, who do you say thanks to? Well, there’s no prescribed requirements, but it’s common to mention the following people:

  • Your dissertation supervisor or committee.
  • Any professors, lecturers or academics that helped you understand the topic or methodologies.
  • Any tutors, mentors or advisors.
  • Your family and friends, especially spouse (for adult learners studying part-time).

There’s no need for lengthy rambling. Just state who you’re thankful to and for what (e.g. thank you to my supervisor, John Doe, for his endless patience and attentiveness) – be sincere. In terms of length, you should keep this to a page or less.

Abstract or executive summary

The dissertation abstract (or executive summary for some degrees) serves to provide the first-time reader (and marker or moderator) with a big-picture view of your research project. It should give them an understanding of the key insights and findings from the research, without them needing to read the rest of the report – in other words, it should be able to stand alone .

For it to stand alone, your abstract should cover the following key points (at a minimum):

  • Your research questions and aims – what key question(s) did your research aim to answer?
  • Your methodology – how did you go about investigating the topic and finding answers to your research question(s)?
  • Your findings – following your own research, what did do you discover?
  • Your conclusions – based on your findings, what conclusions did you draw? What answers did you find to your research question(s)?

So, in much the same way the dissertation structure mimics the research process, your abstract or executive summary should reflect the research process, from the initial stage of asking the original question to the final stage of answering that question.

In practical terms, it’s a good idea to write this section up last , once all your core chapters are complete. Otherwise, you’ll end up writing and rewriting this section multiple times (just wasting time). For a step by step guide on how to write a strong executive summary, check out this post .

Need a helping hand?

chapter 1 3 of research

Table of contents

This section is straightforward. You’ll typically present your table of contents (TOC) first, followed by the two lists – figures and tables. I recommend that you use Microsoft Word’s automatic table of contents generator to generate your TOC. If you’re not familiar with this functionality, the video below explains it simply:

If you find that your table of contents is overly lengthy, consider removing one level of depth. Oftentimes, this can be done without detracting from the usefulness of the TOC.

Right, now that the “admin” sections are out of the way, its time to move on to your core chapters. These chapters are the heart of your dissertation and are where you’ll earn the marks. The first chapter is the introduction chapter – as you would expect, this is the time to introduce your research…

It’s important to understand that even though you’ve provided an overview of your research in your abstract, your introduction needs to be written as if the reader has not read that (remember, the abstract is essentially a standalone document). So, your introduction chapter needs to start from the very beginning, and should address the following questions:

  • What will you be investigating (in plain-language, big picture-level)?
  • Why is that worth investigating? How is it important to academia or business? How is it sufficiently original?
  • What are your research aims and research question(s)? Note that the research questions can sometimes be presented at the end of the literature review (next chapter).
  • What is the scope of your study? In other words, what will and won’t you cover ?
  • How will you approach your research? In other words, what methodology will you adopt?
  • How will you structure your dissertation? What are the core chapters and what will you do in each of them?

These are just the bare basic requirements for your intro chapter. Some universities will want additional bells and whistles in the intro chapter, so be sure to carefully read your brief or consult your research supervisor.

If done right, your introduction chapter will set a clear direction for the rest of your dissertation. Specifically, it will make it clear to the reader (and marker) exactly what you’ll be investigating, why that’s important, and how you’ll be going about the investigation. Conversely, if your introduction chapter leaves a first-time reader wondering what exactly you’ll be researching, you’ve still got some work to do.

Now that you’ve set a clear direction with your introduction chapter, the next step is the literature review . In this section, you will analyse the existing research (typically academic journal articles and high-quality industry publications), with a view to understanding the following questions:

  • What does the literature currently say about the topic you’re investigating?
  • Is the literature lacking or well established? Is it divided or in disagreement?
  • How does your research fit into the bigger picture?
  • How does your research contribute something original?
  • How does the methodology of previous studies help you develop your own?

Depending on the nature of your study, you may also present a conceptual framework towards the end of your literature review, which you will then test in your actual research.

Again, some universities will want you to focus on some of these areas more than others, some will have additional or fewer requirements, and so on. Therefore, as always, its important to review your brief and/or discuss with your supervisor, so that you know exactly what’s expected of your literature review chapter.

Dissertation writing

Now that you’ve investigated the current state of knowledge in your literature review chapter and are familiar with the existing key theories, models and frameworks, its time to design your own research. Enter the methodology chapter – the most “science-ey” of the chapters…

In this chapter, you need to address two critical questions:

  • Exactly HOW will you carry out your research (i.e. what is your intended research design)?
  • Exactly WHY have you chosen to do things this way (i.e. how do you justify your design)?

Remember, the dissertation part of your degree is first and foremost about developing and demonstrating research skills . Therefore, the markers want to see that you know which methods to use, can clearly articulate why you’ve chosen then, and know how to deploy them effectively.

Importantly, this chapter requires detail – don’t hold back on the specifics. State exactly what you’ll be doing, with who, when, for how long, etc. Moreover, for every design choice you make, make sure you justify it.

In practice, you will likely end up coming back to this chapter once you’ve undertaken all your data collection and analysis, and revise it based on changes you made during the analysis phase. This is perfectly fine. Its natural for you to add an additional analysis technique, scrap an old one, etc based on where your data lead you. Of course, I’m talking about small changes here – not a fundamental switch from qualitative to quantitative, which will likely send your supervisor in a spin!

You’ve now collected your data and undertaken your analysis, whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods. In this chapter, you’ll present the raw results of your analysis . For example, in the case of a quant study, you’ll present the demographic data, descriptive statistics, inferential statistics , etc.

Typically, Chapter 4 is simply a presentation and description of the data, not a discussion of the meaning of the data. In other words, it’s descriptive, rather than analytical – the meaning is discussed in Chapter 5. However, some universities will want you to combine chapters 4 and 5, so that you both present and interpret the meaning of the data at the same time. Check with your institution what their preference is.

Now that you’ve presented the data analysis results, its time to interpret and analyse them. In other words, its time to discuss what they mean, especially in relation to your research question(s).

What you discuss here will depend largely on your chosen methodology. For example, if you’ve gone the quantitative route, you might discuss the relationships between variables . If you’ve gone the qualitative route, you might discuss key themes and the meanings thereof. It all depends on what your research design choices were.

Most importantly, you need to discuss your results in relation to your research questions and aims, as well as the existing literature. What do the results tell you about your research questions? Are they aligned with the existing research or at odds? If so, why might this be? Dig deep into your findings and explain what the findings suggest, in plain English.

The final chapter – you’ve made it! Now that you’ve discussed your interpretation of the results, its time to bring it back to the beginning with the conclusion chapter . In other words, its time to (attempt to) answer your original research question s (from way back in chapter 1). Clearly state what your conclusions are in terms of your research questions. This might feel a bit repetitive, as you would have touched on this in the previous chapter, but its important to bring the discussion full circle and explicitly state your answer(s) to the research question(s).

Dissertation and thesis prep

Next, you’ll typically discuss the implications of your findings? In other words, you’ve answered your research questions – but what does this mean for the real world (or even for academia)? What should now be done differently, given the new insight you’ve generated?

Lastly, you should discuss the limitations of your research, as well as what this means for future research in the area. No study is perfect, especially not a Masters-level. Discuss the shortcomings of your research. Perhaps your methodology was limited, perhaps your sample size was small or not representative, etc, etc. Don’t be afraid to critique your work – the markers want to see that you can identify the limitations of your work. This is a strength, not a weakness. Be brutal!

This marks the end of your core chapters – woohoo! From here on out, it’s pretty smooth sailing.

The reference list is straightforward. It should contain a list of all resources cited in your dissertation, in the required format, e.g. APA , Harvard, etc.

It’s essential that you use reference management software for your dissertation. Do NOT try handle your referencing manually – its far too error prone. On a reference list of multiple pages, you’re going to make mistake. To this end, I suggest considering either Mendeley or Zotero. Both are free and provide a very straightforward interface to ensure that your referencing is 100% on point. I’ve included a simple how-to video for the Mendeley software (my personal favourite) below:

Some universities may ask you to include a bibliography, as opposed to a reference list. These two things are not the same . A bibliography is similar to a reference list, except that it also includes resources which informed your thinking but were not directly cited in your dissertation. So, double-check your brief and make sure you use the right one.

The very last piece of the puzzle is the appendix or set of appendices. This is where you’ll include any supporting data and evidence. Importantly, supporting is the keyword here.

Your appendices should provide additional “nice to know”, depth-adding information, which is not critical to the core analysis. Appendices should not be used as a way to cut down word count (see this post which covers how to reduce word count ). In other words, don’t place content that is critical to the core analysis here, just to save word count. You will not earn marks on any content in the appendices, so don’t try to play the system!

Time to recap…

And there you have it – the traditional dissertation structure and layout, from A-Z. To recap, the core structure for a dissertation or thesis is (typically) as follows:

  • Acknowledgments page

Most importantly, the core chapters should reflect the research process (asking, investigating and answering your research question). Moreover, the research question(s) should form the golden thread throughout your dissertation structure. Everything should revolve around the research questions, and as you’ve seen, they should form both the start point (i.e. introduction chapter) and the endpoint (i.e. conclusion chapter).

I hope this post has provided you with clarity about the traditional dissertation/thesis structure and layout. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below, or feel free to get in touch with us. Also, be sure to check out the rest of the  Grad Coach Blog .

chapter 1 3 of research

Psst... there’s more!

This post was based on one of our popular Research Bootcamps . If you're working on a research project, you'll definitely want to check this out ...

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Dissertation and thesis defense 101



many thanks i found it very useful

Derek Jansen

Glad to hear that, Arun. Good luck writing your dissertation.


Such clear practical logical advice. I very much needed to read this to keep me focused in stead of fretting.. Perfect now ready to start my research!


what about scientific fields like computer or engineering thesis what is the difference in the structure? thank you very much


Thanks so much this helped me a lot!

Ade Adeniyi

Very helpful and accessible. What I like most is how practical the advice is along with helpful tools/ links.

Thanks Ade!


Thank you so much sir.. It was really helpful..

You’re welcome!

Jp Raimundo

Hi! How many words maximum should contain the abstract?

Karmelia Renatee

Thank you so much 😊 Find this at the right moment

You’re most welcome. Good luck with your dissertation.


best ever benefit i got on right time thank you

Krishnan iyer

Many times Clarity and vision of destination of dissertation is what makes the difference between good ,average and great researchers the same way a great automobile driver is fast with clarity of address and Clear weather conditions .

I guess Great researcher = great ideas + knowledge + great and fast data collection and modeling + great writing + high clarity on all these

You have given immense clarity from start to end.

Alwyn Malan

Morning. Where will I write the definitions of what I’m referring to in my report?


Thank you so much Derek, I was almost lost! Thanks a tonnnn! Have a great day!

yemi Amos

Thanks ! so concise and valuable

Kgomotso Siwelane

This was very helpful. Clear and concise. I know exactly what to do now.

dauda sesay

Thank you for allowing me to go through briefly. I hope to find time to continue.

Patrick Mwathi

Really useful to me. Thanks a thousand times

Adao Bundi

Very interesting! It will definitely set me and many more for success. highly recommended.


Thank you soo much sir, for the opportunity to express my skills

mwepu Ilunga

Usefull, thanks a lot. Really clear


Very nice and easy to understand. Thank you .

Chrisogonas Odhiambo

That was incredibly useful. Thanks Grad Coach Crew!


My stress level just dropped at least 15 points after watching this. Just starting my thesis for my grad program and I feel a lot more capable now! Thanks for such a clear and helpful video, Emma and the GradCoach team!


Do we need to mention the number of words the dissertation contains in the main document?

It depends on your university’s requirements, so it would be best to check with them 🙂


Such a helpful post to help me get started with structuring my masters dissertation, thank you!

Simon Le

Great video; I appreciate that helpful information

Brhane Kidane

It is so necessary or avital course


This blog is very informative for my research. Thank you


Doctoral students are required to fill out the National Research Council’s Survey of Earned Doctorates

Emmanuel Manjolo

wow this is an amazing gain in my life

Paul I Thoronka

This is so good

Tesfay haftu

How can i arrange my specific objectives in my dissertation?


  • What Is A Literature Review (In A Dissertation Or Thesis) - Grad Coach - […] is to write the actual literature review chapter (this is usually the second chapter in a typical dissertation or…

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chapter 1 3 of research

Chapter 1 introduces the research problem and the evidence supporting the existence of the problem. It outlines an initial review of the literature on the study topic and articulates the purpose of the study. The definitions of any technical terms necessary for the reader to understand are essential. Chapter 1 also presents the research questions and theoretical foundation (Ph.D.) or conceptual framework (Applied Doctorate) and provides an overview of the research methods (qualitative or quantitative) being used in the study.  

  • Research Feasibility Checklist Use this checklist to make sure your study will be feasible, reasonable, justifiable, and necessary.
  • Alignment Worksheet Use this worksheet to make sure your problem statement, purpose, and research questions are aligned. Alignment indicates the degree to which the purpose of the study follows logically from the problem statement; and the degree to which the research questions help address the study’s purpose. Alignment is important because it helps ensure that the research study is well-designed and based on logical arguments.
  • SOBE Research Design and Chapter 1 Checklist If you are in the School of Business and Economics (SOBE), use this checklist one week before the Communication and Research Design Checkpoint. Work with your Chair to determine if you need to complete this.

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The Process of Research Writing

(19 reviews)

chapter 1 3 of research

Steven D. Krause, Eastern Michigan University

Copyright Year: 2007

Publisher: Steven D. Krause

Language: English

Formats Available

Conditions of use.


Learn more about reviews.

Reviewed by Kevin Kennedy, Adjunct Professor, Bridgewater State University on 12/2/22

I think this book would make an excellent supplement to other class material in a class focused on writing and research. It helps a lot with the "why"s of research and gives a high-level overview. read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 3 see less

I think this book would make an excellent supplement to other class material in a class focused on writing and research. It helps a lot with the "why"s of research and gives a high-level overview.

Content Accuracy rating: 5

The book is accurate, and talks a lot about different ways to view academic writing

Relevance/Longevity rating: 5

This would be quite relevant for a student early on the college journey who is starting to complete research-based projects.

Clarity rating: 4

The text is clear and concise, though that conciseness sometimes leads to less content than I'd like

Consistency rating: 5

The book is consistent throughout

Modularity rating: 4

I could use the first chapters of this book very easily, but the later ones get into exercises that my classes wouldn't necessarily use

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 4

The book is organized from the high level (what is academic writing with research) to the more specific (here are some specific exercises)

Interface rating: 3

I don't like the flow from contents to chapters, and they feel distinctly text-based. This is a no-frills text, but that's ok.

Grammatical Errors rating: 3

I didn't note anything glaringly obvious

Cultural Relevance rating: 5

I think that this text stays away from the cultural and focuses mostly on the cognitive. This prevents offensive material, though it may make it less appealing to students.

Reviewed by Julie Sorge Way, Instructional Faculty, James Madison University on 11/23/21

Overall, I think this book’s strongest suits are its organization, clarity, and modularity. It is useful and adaptable for a wide range of courses involving a research component, and as the book itself argues, research is a part of most learning... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 4 see less

Overall, I think this book’s strongest suits are its organization, clarity, and modularity. It is useful and adaptable for a wide range of courses involving a research component, and as the book itself argues, research is a part of most learning at the university level, whether or not a single traditional “research paper” is the end goal of a course. This is a great book with adaptable and useful content across a range of disciplines, and while it is low on “bells and whistles,” the content it provides seems to be relevant, helpful, and also fill a gap among other OER texts that focus more on rhetoric and less on research.

Because this is a book on research writing rather than cutting edge science, etc. it is unlikely to be made inaccurate by the passing of time.

In a desire to move past the simple “Comp II” textbook, Krause’s work here is relevant to a variety of fields. In creating a course with a major-specific research component, many parts of this text are relevant to what I’m doing, and due to its modularity and organization (see below) I am able to make use of it easily and draw students’ attention to the parts that will help them most with our learning objectives.

Clarity rating: 5

Krause’s writing style is uncomplicated and direct. His examples are ones I think most students could relate to or at least connect with reasonably well.

While the book is internally consistent in its tone, level of detail, and relevance to Krause’s original writing goals, in the process of applying it to different courses (as almost inevitably happens with OER materials) it is inconsistently useful for the course I in particular am planning. This is certainly no fault of the book’s. One example would be that it presents MLA and APA format for citing sources, but not Chicago/Turabian.

Modularity rating: 5

Certainly, its modularity is a real strong suit for Krause’s book overall – individual instructors planning different types of coursework that involve writing and research can easily adapt parts that work, and its Creative Commons license makes this even better.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 5

Clear and direct organization is another strong suit in Krause’s text. The information is presented in an orderly and easy to navigate way that allows instructors and students alike to hone in on the most useful information for their writing and research task without spending undue amounts of time searching. This is much appreciated especially in an open access text where instructors are more likely to be “picking and choosing” relevant content from multiple texts and resources.

Interface rating: 4

Simple but clear – basic HTML and PDF navigation by chapter and section. Like many OER texts it is a bit short on visual engagement – the colorful infographics and illustrations many people are used to both in printed textbooks and interacting with internet content.

Grammatical Errors rating: 5

No errors noted.

Widely relevant (at least in the North American context I have most experience with) but as always, instructors should preview and adapt all material for the needs and context of their own classes and students.

chapter 1 3 of research

Reviewed by Li-Anne Delavega, Undergraduate Research Experience Coordinator, Kapiolani Community College on 5/1/21

This textbook builds a good foundation for first-year students with topics such as developing a thesis, how to find sources and evaluate them, creating an annotated bibliography, audience, and avoiding plagiarism. While the content is explained... read more

This textbook builds a good foundation for first-year students with topics such as developing a thesis, how to find sources and evaluate them, creating an annotated bibliography, audience, and avoiding plagiarism. While the content is explained well and students are slowly walked through the research process, the textbook ends abruptly ends with a quick overview of the elements of a research essay after students organize their evidence and create an outline. A part two textbook that covers the rest of the writing process, such as structuring paragraphs, how to write an introduction and conclusion, and revising drafts, is needed to help students get to a finished product. As a composition-based textbook, I also felt it could have used a section on building arguments. The true gem of this textbook is its activities/exercises and comprehensive but accessible explanations.

Content Accuracy rating: 4

Aside from outdated citations and technology-related content, the process-based writing instruction is accurate and answers common questions from students about research and basic writing. I feel like the questions, checklists, and activities posed are helpful for students to really think through their writing process, and the author explains things without judgment. While students can benefit, I feel that faculty would also benefit from using this as a teaching manual to plan their classes.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 3

The writing instruction is solid and is still used in many textbooks today. Obviously, the sections on technology and citation are outdated, but some sections still have good reliable advice at their core. For example, search language, unreliable web sources, and collaborating online have evolved, but the concepts remain the same. I would cut those sections out and just take what I needed to give to students. The author has no plans to update this book, and someone would need to rewrite many sections of the book, which is not easy to implement.

The book is largely free of jargon and terms are clearly explained. The author's tone is casual and conversational when compared to other textbooks, which makes it more accessible to students and acts as a guide through the research process. However, it does lend itself to longer sections that could use heavy editing and it does sound like a mini-lecture, but I liked the way he thoroughly explains and sets up concepts. His tone and style are a bit inconsistent as others have noted.

The book is very consistent since research and writing terminology is the same across most disciplines. If you're a composition instructor, you'll find the framework is just common writing pedagogy for academic writing: focus on the writing process, freewriting, peer review, audience, revision, etc.

This book was intended to be modular and chapters are mostly self-contained, so it is easy to use individual chapters or change the sequence. There are unusable hyperlinks in each chapter that refer to other sections, but those are additional resources that could be replaced with a citation guide or other common resources. Sections, activities, examples, and key ideas are clearly labeled and can be used without the rest of the chapter. However, some writing concepts, such as a working thesis, are mentioned again in later chapters.

Organization/Structure/Flow rating: 3

Parts of the book are easily identifiable and the content within the chapter flows easily from one concept to the next. I felt that some of the chapters should have appeared earlier in the textbook. Students would have to wait until chapter 10 to learn about the research essay. Revising a working thesis comes before categorizing and reviewing your evidence. The peer-review chapter that advises students to read sections of their writing aloud to catch mistakes comes before brainstorming a topic. However, the sequence will depend on the instructor's preference. An index or a complete, searchable text would have helped so you don't need to guess which chapter has the content you need.

The PDF is the more polished and easier to read of the two versions. Overall, the PDF was well laid out, with clear headers and images. I found the colored boxes for the exercises helpful, though a lighter color would make the text easier to see for more students. The text uses different styles to create organization and emphasis, which made some pages (especially in the beginning) hard to read with the bolded and italicized clutter. I would have loved a complied version with all the chapters.

The HTML version is difficult to read as it is one long block of text and the callouts and images are not well spaced. There is, unfortunately, no benefit to reading the web version: no clickable links, dynamic text flow, or navigational links within each page so you will need to go back to the TOC to get the next section.

Grammatical Errors rating: 4

The book has grammatical and mechanical errors throughout but does not impact content comprehension. Other reviewers here identified more notable errors.

Cultural Relevance rating: 2

The language, examples, and references were generally ok, but the overall textbook felt acultural. Some consideration was taken with pronouns (relies on they/them/their) and gender roles. As others pointed out, there are many areas that could have used diversified sources, topics, references, examples, and students. Some of the textbook's activities assume able-bodied students and sections such as peer collaboration would benefit from a more nuanced discussion when he brought up resentment over non-contributing members, being silenced, and access to resources. There are a few red flags, but one glaring example is on page 5 of chapter 10. An excerpt from an article titled “Preparing to Be Colonized: Land Tenure and Legal Strategy in Nineteenth-Century Hawaii”(which includes the sentence, "Why did Hawaiians do this to themselves?") was used to show students when to use "I" in writing.

Overall, this is a good resource for writing instructors. As this book was written in 2007, faculty will need to cut or adapt a fair amount of the text to modernize it. It is not a textbook to assign to students for the semester, but the textbook's core content is solid writing pedagogy and the focus on using activities to reflect and revise is wonderful. Those outside of composition may find the basic exercises and explanations useful as long as students are primarily working out of a more discipline-specific (e.g., sciences) writing guide.

Reviewed by Milena Gueorguieva, Associate Teaching Professor, University of Massachusetts Lowell on 6/28/20

This is a process based research writing textbook, a rarity among composition textbooks. It is often the case that foundational writing courses are supposed to cover process and then, very often, instructors, students and textbook authors all... read more

Comprehensiveness rating: 5 see less

This is a process based research writing textbook, a rarity among composition textbooks. It is often the case that foundational writing courses are supposed to cover process and then, very often, instructors, students and textbook authors all forget that process is important when they have to dive into the technical aspects of conducting and writing about and from research, usually in a 'second course' in the first year writing sequence. This is not the case with this book: it is a thoughtful, comprehensive exploration of writing from research as a multi-step recursive process. This approach can help students solidify the knowledge and skills they have acquired in prior courses, especially the multi-step recursive nature of writing as a process while developing a set of strong writing from research skills.

The foundations of research writing are presented in an accessible yet rigorous way. The book does away with the myth of research writing as something you do after you think about and research a topic. The author articulated this idea very well, when he wrote, ”We think about what it is we want to research and write about, but at the same time, we learn what to think based on our research and our writing.”

Relevance/Longevity rating: 4

Overall, an excellent handbook (it can be used non-sequentially); however, some of the information on database searches and working with popular internet sources as well as collaborative writing (especially as it relates to the use of technology) needs updating.

The appropriately conversational tone translates complex academic concepts into easy to access ideas that students can relate to. The same is true for the many activities and exercises that demonstrate a variety of real life applications for the research skills presented in the book, which helps students see that research and research based writing happen everywhere, not just on campuses , where students seem to write for an audience of one: the professor who assigned the paper.

The material presented is rigorously and consistently presented in various modes: text, activities and exercises.

It can be used in a variety of ways; it has excellent modular stucture.

Excellently organized: reviews and expands on what students might already know about academic writing as a process; introduces the fundamentals of research and research writing and then uses both of these sets of skills in various research projects.

Although it has some very useful and appropriate visuals , the text could have been more user friendly; it is difficult to follow.

Excellently proof-read,

the book is culturally sensitive and contains appropriate examples and/or references.

An overall excellent composition text that provides useful exercises and assignments (such as the antithesis essay) that can help students build complex and nuanced arguments based on research. Highly recommend!

Reviewed by Valerie Young, Associate Professor, Hanover College on 3/29/20

This text is both general and specific. General enough for use in a variety of courses and disciplines, specific enough to garner interest for faculty who want to teach students the fundamentals and more nuanced aspects of research writing. The... read more

This text is both general and specific. General enough for use in a variety of courses and disciplines, specific enough to garner interest for faculty who want to teach students the fundamentals and more nuanced aspects of research writing. The basics are here. The text could be assigned in specific modules. The text will benefit from an update, especially in regards to references about collaborative writing tools and internet research. The text is missing a chapter on reading research and integrating research into the literature review process. This is a relevant skill for research writing, as student writers often struggle with reading the work of others to understand the body of literature as a foundation for their own assertions.

The content and information seems like it could be helpful for any undergraduate course that has a research writing project. The unique aspects of this book are its features of collaborative and peer review writing practices and all of the exercises embedded in the text. The author gives examples and writing exercises throughout the chapters. These examples could serve inexperienced students quite well. They could also annoy advanced students.

There are some references to the World Wide Web and the Internet, and library research that seem a bit outdated. There isn't much advanced referencing of commonly used internet research options, such as Google Scholar, citation apps, etc.

Clarity rating: 3

Some points are clear and concise. Other pieces go into too much detail for one chapter page. Because the pages are long, and not all content will be relevant to all readers, the author could consider using "collapsible" sections. This could be especially relevant in the APA & MLA sections, offering a side-by-side comparison of each or offering overviews of style basics with sections that open up into more details for some interested readers.

Consistency rating: 4

no issues here

Modularity rating: 3

The chapters are relatively concise and each starts with an overview of content. The web format does not allow for much navigational flow between chapters or sections. It would be great to hyperlink sections of content that are related so that readers can pass through parts of the text to other topics. It does look like the author intended to hyperlink between chapters, but those links (denoted "Hyperlink:" in the text) are not functional.

Overall flow is appropriate for an interdisciplinary lens. Readers can move through as many or as few sections as needed. The chapter topics and subtopics are organized fairly comprehensively, and often by questions that students might ask.

Interface rating: 2

The long blocks of text in each chapter aren't very reader friendly. Also, once the reader gets to the end of the long page / chapter, there is no navigation up to the top of the chapter or laterally to previous or next content. Text doesn't adjust to screen size, so larger screens might have lots of white space.

no issues noticed. Some examples could be updated to be more inclusive, culturally diverse, etc.

This book has some good lessons, questions, and suggestions for topics relevant to research writing. The text could benefit from a more modern take on research writing, as some of the topics and phrases are dated.

Reviewed by Jennifer Wilde, Adjunct instructor, Columbia Gorge Community College on 12/13/18

The text is a wonderful guidebook to the process of writing a research essay. It describes the steps a college writer should take when approaching a research assignment, and I have no doubt that if students followed the steps outlined by the... read more

The text is a wonderful guidebook to the process of writing a research essay. It describes the steps a college writer should take when approaching a research assignment, and I have no doubt that if students followed the steps outlined by the text, they would be sure to succeed in generating a quality thesis statement and locating appropriate sources. It is not comprehensive in that it has very little to say regarding composition, clarity and style. It does not contain an index or glossary.

Sections on MLA and APA format are inaccurate in that they are outdated. It would be preferable for the text to refer students to the online resources that provide up to date information on the latest conventions of APA and MLA.

The bulk of the chapters are timeless and filled with wisdom about using research to write a paper. However, the book should contain links or otherwise refer students to the web sources that would tell them how to use current MLA/APA format. There are some passages that feel anachronistic, as when the author recommends that students consider the advantages of using a computer rather than a word processor or typewriter. The sections on computer research and "netiquette" feel outdated. Finally, the author describes the differences between scholarly sources and periodicals but does not address the newer type of resources, the online journal that is peer-reviewed but open access and not associated with a university.

The writing is strong and clear. Dr. Krause does not indulge in the use of jargon.

The different sections open with an explanation of what will be covered. Then, the author explains the content. Some chapters are rather short while others are long, but generally each topic is addressed comprehensively. In the last several chapters, the author closes with a sample of student work that illustrates the principles the chapter addressed.

The text is divisible into sections. To some extent the content is sequential, but it is not necessary to read the early chapters (such as the section on using computers, which millenials do not need to read) in order to benefit from the wisdom in later chapters. I used this text in a writing 121 course, and I did not assign the entire text. I found some chapters helpful and others not so relevant to my particular needs. Students found the chapters useful and discrete, and they did not feel like they had to go back and read the whole thing. The section on writing an annotated bibliography, for instance, could be used in any writing class.

The topics are presented in the order in which a student approaches a writing assignment. First, the author asks, why write a research essay, and why do research? Next, the author addresses critical thinking and library/data use; quoting, summarizing and paraphrasing; collaboration and writing with others; writing a quality thesis statement; annotating a bibliography; categorizing sources; dealing with counterarguments, and actually writing the research essay. It's quite intuitive and logical. It seems clear that this author has had a lot of experience teaching students how to do these steps.

The interface is straightforward, but I could not locate any hyperlinks that worked. Navigation through the book was no problem.

The book is well written overall. The writer's style is straightforward and clear. There are occasional typos and words that feel misplaced, as in the following sentence: "The reality is though that the possibilities and process of research writing are more complicated and much richer than that." There should be commas around the word "though", and the tone is fairly conversational. These are extremely minor issues.

The examples feel inclusive and I was not aware of any cultural insensitivity in the book overall.

The book is really helpful! I particularly appreciate the sections on how to write an annotated bib and a good thesis statement, and I think the sections on writing a category/evaluation of sources, working thesis statement, and antithesis exercise are unique in the large field of writing textbooks. The book contains no instruction on grammatical conventions, style, clarity, rhetoric, how to emphasize or de-emphasize points, or other writing tips. In that sense, it is not a great text for a composition class. But I think it's extremely useful as a second resource for such a class, especially for classes that teach argumentation or those that require an analytic essay. I feel it is most appropriate for science students - nursing, psychology, medicine, biology, sociology. It is less likely to be useful for a general WR 121 class, or for a bunch of English majors who largely use primary sources.

Reviewed by Jess Magaña, Assistant Teaching Professor, University of Missouri-Kansas City on 6/19/18

This is a comprehensive introduction to planning and writing research papers. The suggested activities seem helpful, and the lack of an index or glossary does not interfere with understanding. read more

This is a comprehensive introduction to planning and writing research papers. The suggested activities seem helpful, and the lack of an index or glossary does not interfere with understanding.

The information is accurate and straightforward.

Some information is out of date, such as the section regarding email, but the main concepts are well explained and relevant. An instructor could easily substitute a lecture or activity with updated information.

The clarity is excellent.

There are no inconsistencies.

The text is organized in a way that lends itself to changing the order of chapters and adding and subtracting topics to suit the needs of each class.

The progression of chapters is logical.

Interface rating: 5

The "hyperlinks" helpfully direct readers to related topics (although these are not actual links in the online version), which contributes to the modularity of the text.

There are a few errors, but none that significantly obscure meaning.

Cultural Relevance rating: 4

This text could use updated examples showing greater diversity in authors and work. I recommend instructors find supplementary examples relevant to their classes.

I intend to use this text in my courses, supplemented with a few activities and more diverse examples to suit my students' needs.

Reviewed by Sheila Packa, Instructor, Lake Superior College on 2/1/18

The text is a comprehensive guide to research for students in College Composition courses. The text is concise and interesting. Critical thinking, research and writing argument are integrated into his suggested assignments. The author covers... read more

The text is a comprehensive guide to research for students in College Composition courses. The text is concise and interesting. Critical thinking, research and writing argument are integrated into his suggested assignments.

The author covers the research question, library resources, how to paraphrase and use quotes, and collaborative writing projects. There are suggested exercises in the process of research, such as a topic proposal, a guide to developing a strong thesis statement, a full exploration of refutation (called the antithesis), the critique or rhetorical analysis, the annotated bibliography, and a guide to help students to accumulate a good assortment of sources. MLA and APA documentation is covered. Note that this text is published in 2007. Therefore, I recommend the use of MLA 8 Handbook for up-to-date guidelines for correct documentation. The Research Paper is full explained. In the chapter, Alternate Ways to Present Research, the author focuses on a Portfolio. He discusses web publication of research and poster sessions.

I value the clarity of ideas. The text is error-free, and I like the example essays written by students that will serve to inspire students.

The content is relevant. The author guides students through the process in a way that is easy to understand and also academically rigorous. The MLA 8 Handbook is a needed supplement (and that is affordable).

The writing is clear and concise. The organization of the chapters is logical and leads the students through steps in the process of research, writing a reasoned argument, and professional presentation of the research.

Terminology is clear and the framework for research is clear and sensible.

The book's modularity is definitely a strength. It's possible to use chapters of the text without using the entire book and to omit chapters that are not a focus of the instructor.

This book has a logical arrangement of chapters and the assignments are valuable.

The interface is great. It's readable online or in pdf form.

No grammatical errors. There is one detail that reflects changing rules of documentation. In MLA, titles of books, magazines, and journals are now italicized instead of underlined. In this text, they are underlined.

The text is free of bias or stereotypes.

Reviewed by Jennie Englund, Instructor, Composition I & II, Rogue Community College, Oregon on 8/15/17

Twelve chapters are broken into multiple parts. On Page 3 of the Introduction, the text emphasizes its purpose as an "introduction to academic writing and research." The following chapters present more than substantial information to give... read more

Twelve chapters are broken into multiple parts.

On Page 3 of the Introduction, the text emphasizes its purpose as an "introduction to academic writing and research." The following chapters present more than substantial information to give introductory (even well into master) research writers a foundation of the basics, as well as some detail. It differentiates itself as "Academic" research writing through thesis, evidence, and citation. Two of these concepts are revisted in the conclusion. The third (thesis) has its own section, which this reviewer will use in class.

I'm grateful to have reviewed an earlier electronic text. This provided the ability to compare/contrast, and note that this particular text was more comprehensive and in-depth than the guide I had previously reviewed (which was more of a framework, good in its own right.)

Had the guide contained a thorough section on revision, I'd give it a perfect score! Thus, the book very very nearly does what it sets out to do; it provides most of The Process of Research Writing.

Retrieval dates are no longer used on the APA References page. This reviewer would have preferred titles italicized instead of underlined.

The text opens with an introduction of the project, by its author. The project began in 2000 as a text for a major publishing house, but eventually landed via author's rights as an electronic text. Therefore, essentially, the book has already been around quite a while. This reviewer concludes that time, thought, and execution went into publishing the material, and predicts its popularity and usability will grow.

Timeless, the guide could have been used with small updates twenty years ago, and could be used with updates twenty years from now.

The guide could be used as the sole text in a composition course, supplemented by more formal (as well as APA) examples.

The text is organized into 12 chapters; it logically begins with "Thinking Critically about Research," and concludes with "Citing Your Research Using MLA or APA Style." The text includes most of what this reviewer uses to teach academic research writing. However, the book omits the editing/revising process.

The guide poses purposeful questions.

On Page 7 of the Introduction, the text reports being "organized in a 'step-by-step' fashion," with an invitation to the reader to use the book in any order, and revisit passages. The reviewer found the organization to be consistent and as systematic as the actual composition of an academic research paper.

The meat of the text begins with the definition and purpose of "Research." Immediately, a nod to working thesis follows, which is revisited in Chapter 5. Sources are examined and classified into a chart of "Scholarly Versus Non-scholarly or Popular Sources." The segment on "Using the Library" would complement a course or class period on library usage.

The Table of Contents is fluid and logical. Within the text, concepts are revisited and built upon, which the reviewer appreciates. Examples and exercises are given.

Chapter 10 contains an outline of a student research paper (which follows). The paper examines the problems with and solutions for university athletics. The paper is in MLA format. Tone is less formal than this reviewer would use as an example of academic research writing. The reviewer would have welcomed an example of an APA paper, as well.

The last chapter fully realizes instruction introduced at the beginning: citation defines academic writing, and academic writers credit their sources, and present evidence to their readers. I wish this last part emphasized thesis again, too, but in all, it is a very structured, reader-friendly guide.

Charts are integrated and understandable, though the majority of the book is text.

This review found some grammatical errors including capitalization. Book/journal/magazine/newspaper titles are underlined in lieu of italicized.

Student examples include Daniel Marvins, Ashley Nelson, Jeremy Stephens, Kelly Ritter, Stuart Banner, and Casey Copeman. Most examples of citations are from male authors. Text would benefit from multi-cultural authors. Examples/topics include The Great Gatsby,African-American Physicians and Drug Advertising, Cyberculture, ADHD, Diabetes, Student-athletes, and Drunk Driving.Examples are culturally appropriate and multi-disciplinary. Consistent pronoun used: he/him/his

Third-person narration is used; the author addresses the reader directly (and informally). While this perhaps makes a connection between the author and the reader, and adds to understanding, it does not reflect academic research writing, and may confuse beginning writers?

Chapter 5, "Writing a Working Thesis," is among the most clear, comprehensive, and straightforward instruction on the topic this reviewer has seen. I will use this section in my Composition I and II courses, as well as Chapters 1, 3, and 12. I wish this form had a place to rate usability. In that case, this guide would score highly. I commend Dr. Krause's execution and composition, and applaud his sharing this at no cost with the academic community.

Reviewed by Marie Lechelt, ESL/English Instructor and Writing Center Co-director, Riverland Community College on 6/20/17

"The Process of Research Writing" is a textbook that includes all of the major topics covered in most college research writing courses. The style of writing makes it easily understood by students. Depending on your focus in your writing class,... read more

"The Process of Research Writing" is a textbook that includes all of the major topics covered in most college research writing courses. The style of writing makes it easily understood by students. Depending on your focus in your writing class, you may want to supplement this text with more about argumentative writing. Other writing models, homework exercises, and classroom activities found by the instructor would also compliment the use of this text. While I would not use this textbook in my course from start to finish, I would jump around and use a variety of sections from it to teach research writing. This text could be used for a beginning writing class or a second semester writing course. Based on my students writing experiences and abilities, I would eliminate or include certain sections. There is no index or glossary included. The hyperlinks to other sections also do not work.

The content is accurate and error-free. I didn't detect any biased information either. The MLA and APA information have changed since this book was published. The peer review work, plagiarism, critiquing sources, and many more of the topics are almost exactly what I teach to my students. This format will work well for them.

While most research writing content does not change over time, there are many parts of this book that could be updated. These include examples (The Great Gatsby), hyperlinks, and references to technology. The technology aspect is especially important. Since technology is constantly changing, most textbooks (print and online) are out of date as soon as they are printed. Because of this, teachers are constantly having to use supplemental material, which is fine. Just like our class websites, we have to update this information every semester or even more often. If you choose to use this textbook, keep in mind that this will be necessary. The MLA/APA information is also out of date, but this is also to be expected.

Clarity is one of the benefits of this textbook. Although the style is somewhat informal, it included appropriate topics and terminology for students learning to write research essays. Students can understand the topics with one or two readings and discuss the topics in class. There were a few places that seemed like common knowledge for students at this level, like the library or using computers. Unfortunately, we do still have students who do not come to us having already learned this information. So, I don't think these sections would have a negative impact on other students. Students can also be given optional sections to read, or as I plan to do, the teacher can skip around and only assign some sections.

The majority of the terminology is common knowledge in research writing teaching. The text is fairly informal in writing style, which I believe is an advantage for students. Many times, students will read a text and then I will need to explain the terminology or ideas in depth in my lectures. Since I prefer to complete activities and work on students' writing in class, instead of lecturing, this book will work well. The chapter on the "Antithesis" was new to me. While I have taught these ideas, I have not used this term before. This is a chapter I may not use and instead include supplemental material of my own.

The chapters are divided clearly and could be separated quite easily to use as individual units in a writing class. If the hyperlinks worked though, they would be helpful. Exercises build upon one another, so one could not assign a later exercise without students first understanding the other sections of the text. I plan to use this text in a research writing class, and I will be skipping around and only using some sections. I do not believe there will be any problem with this. While students may at first feel that starting on Chapter 4 might be strange, they are very adaptive and should have no difficulties with this format.

The Table of Contents is clear and easily understood. Each chapter follows a logical sequence, and students will be able to transition from one topic to another without difficulty. The use of charts, headings, bold, highlighting, and some other visual aids help the reader to understand what is most important to remember. Although, this could be improved upon with the use of color and graphics. While the content is valuable, I would most likely skip around when using this book in the classroom. While the author begin with an introduction and then jumps right into research, I focus on topic selection and thesis writing before research begins. Of course, as the author mentions, students will go back to their thesis and research many times before finishing the writing process.

The text is easily navigated, and students would be able to follow the topics throughout. The lack of graphics and color is noticeable and detracts from the content. In a world of advanced technology where students click on hundreds of websites with amazing content each week, online textbooks need to meet this standard. This textbook is similar to a traditional textbook. Some links are also inactive.

There were some typos and small grammatical errors but no glaring instances. They also did not impact understanding.

This book contained no offensive language or examples. However, we have a lot of diversity in our classrooms, and this is not reflected in the book. Expanding the examples or including links to diverse examples would be helpful.

I will be using this text in a second semester writing class. It has valuable information about research writing. I believe it could also be used for a first semester writing class. As mentioned above, I will use sections of the text and skip around to accommodate the needs of my students. Supplemental materials will also be needed to meet current technology needs.

Reviewed by Betsy Goetz, English Instructor, Riverland Community College on 6/20/17

The text covers all subject areas appropriately. read more

The text covers all subject areas appropriately.

Overall, the text is accurate.

Relevant and current.

I liked the clarity of the text, especially the specific exercises for students to apply the theory they have learned.

This text is consistent -- good terminology!

Clear sections to focus on key points of research writing.

Well organized.

Not confusing

Overall, lacking grammatical errors.

Relevant -- research writing and thesis building are timeless.

Reviewed by Karen Pleasant, Adjunct Instructor, Rogue Community College on 4/11/17

The textbook covered the basics of writing a research paper (the term "essay"is preferred by the author) and would be appropriate for an introductory college writing course, such as WR 121 or WR 122. A table of content is provided, but there is... read more

The textbook covered the basics of writing a research paper (the term "essay"is preferred by the author) and would be appropriate for an introductory college writing course, such as WR 121 or WR 122. A table of content is provided, but there is no glossary. The textbook guides a student from exploring the initial topic selection through the finished product, although I would have liked the use of citations to be covered in more depth. If I chose this as the textbook for my class I would also need to add supplemental materials about thoroughly developing an argument as well as revising a paper.

The author presented the material in an unbiased manner and does so in a way that provides high readability for students with little to no background in writing a research paper. Excellent examples are provided to reinforce concepts and thoughtful, creative collaborative exercises round out each chapter to give practice in skill mastery. Both MLA and APA formatting styles are included, but the APA section needs to be updated. The book was published in 2007 and many of the APA guidelines have changed., including the preference for using italics versus underlining for book and journal titles.

Each chapter is self-contained and stands alone and , therefore, could easily be updated. Most of the information is relevant and could be used indefinitely. I like that Chapter 11 recommended alternate ways to present the research and suggested more contemporary technology based methods. Chapter 12, about APA and MLA citations, is the chapter that currently needs to be updated and would need to be checked for accuracy annually against the latest APA & MLA guidelines. As it reads, I would handout current materials for APA citation sessions and not use this chapter in the book.

The book is well organized and is very user friendly. I think students would enjoy reading it and be able to relate readily to the content. Examples given and exercises provided help to clarify the content and reinforce the concepts for students. The textbook flows well from selection of initial topic ideas to finished product and will help students to work through the process of writing a research paper.

New terms are thoroughly explained and are used consistently throughout the textbook. The knowledge students gain as they progress through the book feels logical and organized in a usable fashion.

The text is organized so that each chapter stands alone and the order the information is presented can be easily modified to fit the needs of an instructor. The book is that rare combination of being equally functional for both student and instructor.

The topics are presented as needed to guide students through the process of writing a research paper, but could be done in another order if desired. Bold and boxed items are used to emphasize key concepts and chapter exercises.

The textbook is visually appealing and easy to read with adequate use of white space and varied font sizes. I explored the textbook via the PDF documents, which were easy to download, although the hyperlinks were not accessible.

There were noticeable grammatical errors.

The textbook is inclusive and accessible to all and didn't have any content that could be deemed offensive. The approachable layout and writing style make the textbook relevant to college students from a variety of backgrounds.

I would definitely adopt this open textbook for my writing classes. The author provided some wonderful ideas for teaching about research papers and I found many chapter exercises that I would be willing to incorporate into my class . I am especially intrigued by the use of writing an antithesis paper as a lead in to adding opposition to the research paper and look forward to getting student input and feedback about some of the alternative ways to present their research. Compared to textbooks I have used or perused in the past, this book seems more inviting and user friendly for students new to writing college level research papers.

Reviewed by VINCENT LASNIK, Adjunct Professor, Rogue Community College on 4/11/17

This comprehensiveness is one of the strengths of The Process of Research Writing. The Table of Contents (TOC) is fine—and each separate chapter also reproduces the contents listing from high-lever through low-level subsections at the beginning... read more

This comprehensiveness is one of the strengths of The Process of Research Writing. The Table of Contents (TOC) is fine—and each separate chapter also reproduces the contents listing from high-lever through low-level subsections at the beginning of each chapter. This duplicate listing feature helps orient students to what is covered (and what is not) for every chapter in-context. Yes—It is a fair evaluation that there can generally be easy-to-fix, quickly recognizable updates, enhancements, and notable improvements to virtually any textbook 10-15 years after its initial publication date (particularly related to changing terminology and nomenclature within the dynamic English lexicon, technology applications (databases, websites, ‘search engines,’ current good ‘help sites’ for students learning the latest iteration of APA style for manuscript formatting, in-text citations, and end references, etc.)—and the Krause text is a prime candidate for such a thorough revision. For example, digital object identifiers (the doi was first introduced circa 2000) did not become widely/pervasively established until well into the first decade of the 21st century; the ‘doi’ is an ubiquitous standard today in 2017. Nevertheless, many of the basic (boilerplate) concepts are clearly noted and credibly, coherently explained. The text could use some effective reorganization (as I note elsewhere in my review)—but that is arguably a subjective/personalized perspective more related to the way we approach writing instruction and student academic development at Rogue Community College—and perhaps less of a global/universal criticism.

See my comments in other sections that impact this issue. Overall, Krause’s text appears, “accurate, error-free and unbiased.” There are no obvious problems with this observation/contention. Some of the ‘out-of-date’ specifics in the text need updating as I note in detail in my other comments.

Most of the text describes research-writing strategies that are fairly well-established if not generic to the undergraduate English composition content area; thus, the overall longevity of the existing text is good. I have suggested, however, that any such ‘how-to’ guide should be updated (as this particular version) after its first decade of publication. The content for online research, for example, reflects an early 2000s perspective of emerging technology terms (e.g., defining blogs as “web-logs” is easily 12-15 years behind the use of the term in 2017), and some of the online websites mentioned are no longer relevant. These types of ‘out-of-date’ past-referents/links, however, can be easily updated to 2017+ accuracy. I have made a few suggestions about such an update—including my offer to assist Steve Krause (gratis and pro bono) in this update should my collaboration be desired. Otherwise, Krause might go the more open ‘peer review’ route and assemble a set of active teachers, instructors, and adjunct professors (such as me) who are on the ‘frontlines’ of current praxis for research-based, critical thinking, problem-oriented writing courses across the 11th-12th grade and through the undergraduate and workforce education community.

The text is written is a clear, credible, and cogent prose throughout. This is one of the particular strengths of Krause’s text—and recursively provides an exemplar for well-written composition. On occasion, the clarity for students might be improved by additional ‘real-world examples’ (i.e., more ‘showing rather than mere abstract telling) explicating some obtuse concepts and numerous rules (e.g., for research strategy, proofreading/editing, using search engines and conducting library research, etc.)—but a similar constructive criticism could easily be made of nearly all similar sources.

The text wording, terminology, framework and process emphasis are highly consistent. There are overlaps and dovetailing (i.e., redundancy) in any/every college textbook—but Krause keeps these to a minimum throughout. Some updating of terminology would be appropriate, useful, and needed as I note throughout my OER review.

The text is superb in this regard. The chapters and exercises are highly modular—which supports the customized reorganization I apply myself in my own courses as noted in my other comments. Numerous subheads and special highlighted ‘key points’ textboxes augment this modularity and improve the narrowing of assigned readings, examples, and exercises for most writing courses. The Process of Research Writing is clearly not, “overly self-referential,” and can easily be, “reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader” by any instructor.

One of the principal weaknesses of the set of chapters is that the given ‘table of contents’ structure is conceptually disjointed—at least insofar as my research writing course is designed. Therefore, to provide a more coherent, logical sequence congruent to the course organization of my Writing 122 (this is an intermediate/advanced-level English Composition II)—it was necessary to assign a completely different order of The Process of Research Writing (Krause, 2007) high-level chapters/pages for weekly course reading assignments as follows:

Week One: Table of Contents; Introduction: Why Write Research Projects?; and Chapter 1: Thinking Critically About Research; Week Two: Chapter 2: Understanding and Using the Library and the Internet for Research. These three starting chapters were reasonable to introduce in Krause’s original sequence. Continuing into Week Two, I also added Chapter 4: How to Collaborate and Write with Others (but I highlighted limited/specific passages only since WR122 does not emphasize collaborative prose composition activities and extensive group-writing projects using such apps as Google Docs). Week Three: I then assigned Chapter 10: The Research Essay—since it was important to orient students to the intrinsic, namesake umbrella concept of researching and writing the research essay—the essential focus of the course I teach. IMPORTANT NEED TO RESTRUCTURE THE OER as it exists: Viewed from a course rationale and content/skill acquisition conceptual level—I have no idea why Krause did not place ‘Writing The Research Essay’ as high as Chapter 2. It comes far too late in the book as Chapter 10. This is actually where the chapter belongs (in my view); the other topics in the remaining Chapters’ (2—12) would more cogently and effectively proceed after first exploring the high-level nature of the research essay task in the first place. The subsequent skills for conducting Online Library Research; Quoting, Paraphrasing, Avoiding Plagiarism, creating a testable ‘Working Thesis,’ producing an Annotated Bibliography (some courses also use a précis assignment), Evaluating and Categorizing Sources, etc.—are realistically supporting, scaffolding, and corroborating functional/operational skills designed to design, research, and produce the research-based essay project. Therefore—from a project-based and problem-oriented pedagogical strategy/approach—a sound argument could be proffered that putting Chapter 10 second in a reordered book would help students on many levels (not the least being engaging interest and promoting contextual understanding for why learning the content of the remaining chapters makes sense and can be critical/applicable to the research-writing process.

Continuing on my own WR122 course text-sequence customization—in Week Four—we move into the attribution phase of the writing process in Chapter 3: Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Avoiding Plagiarism. Logically, we then move (in Week Five) to Chapter 5: The Working Thesis so students can ask significant/original questions and determine a point of departure into their research essay. This seemed like a good time to add the concept of ‘opposition views’ (i.e., counter-claims, rejoinder and rebuttal) discussed in Chapter 8: The Antithesis. In Week Six—we moved into essay formatting, in-text citation and end references, so Chapter 12: Citing Your Research Using MLA or APA Style {(focusing on reading pp. 1-2 (brief overview), and pp. 18-33 about APA style)} was assigned. In addition, students also perused Chapter 7: The Critique preceding a related argumentative assignment (i.e., a movie review project). For Week Seven (concurrent with an annotated bibliography project for the main term paper—students read Chapter 6: The Annotated Bibliography, and Chapter 9: The Categorization and Evaluation (of sources) that was ostensibly/logically relevant to the annotated bibliography project. Concluding the course for Weeks Eight-Eleven—there were new required readings. Students were instructed to review previous readings in The Process of Research Writing (Krause, 2007)—time permitting. Also Note: Chapter 11: Alternative Ways to Present Your Research is completely optional reading. It is not particularly applicable to this course; there is a student’s self-reflection about the research process on pp. 3-11 that may have some nominal merit, but it notes MLA style (versus my course’s use of APA 6th edition style only) and is in any case not required.

The text is not fancy; standard black and white (high-contrast) font used throughout. For emphasis of key points, Krause does use special ‘highlight boxes’ with gray background, a thick black stroke on the outside of the rectangular textbox. While the gray level might be lowered (in the update) for improved contrast—the true-black, bulleted, bolded key-terms are easy to perceive/read. The only criticism I have is the distracting overuse of quotation mark punctuation for emphasis; this should be corrected in any updated version. Otherwise, most of the book’s interface presentation supports a good user (student) experience, good printability, and good accessibility per ADA and general disability (e.g., visually impaired learners) protocols.

There are no significant/glaring occurrences of grammatical errors in the text. I am not a ‘grammar snob’ in any case. The prose seems clear, cogent, thoughtful, well-written; it generally uses solid grammar, mechanics, and punctuation. The exception is the overuse of a somewhat casual/conversational tone combined with (what is more of a recognizable issue) a distracting overuse of quotation marks—many of which are simply neither needed nor helpful; most could be quickly removed with an immediate improvement to readability.

I do not see significant, relevant, or glaring faux pas pertaining to any biased disrespect for multiculturalism. All persons (e.g., races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, and cultural backgrounds) are equally respected and appreciated. The content area (English composition) is very amenable to a relatively generic, culture-free perspective—and Krause’s examples and prose is well-within any applicable standards of post-modern, scholarly, formal non-fiction in written Standard English.

[1] The Process of Research Writing was ostensibly presented/published to Creative Commons in 2007. No identifiable part/portion of the original edition text appears to have been updated (changed, modified, or improved) since then (i.e., at least 10 years); This is perhaps the single, most apparent flaw/weakness for this textbook. An in-depth revision to 2017 post-rhetorical model essay-writing standards and APA conventions would be invaluable—and quite bluntly—is sorely required. A newly updated Version 2.0 for 2017-18 should be critically planned (and scheduled or already ‘in progress’ if it is not already).

[2] There are many insightful, practical, and high-value approaches to the research writing process; in this regard—the nominal OER title is superbly appropriate for late high-school and beginning college (undergraduate) research essay projects. Even though some of the technical components (e.g., APA style) require updating/revision (which makes basic, reasonable sense after a ‘decade on the shelf’ for any academic research writing source)—Krause’s chapters can effectively replace many expensive, glossy college entry-level textbooks! After presenting the core concepts in a coherent and self-evident manner, Krause supplies a plethora of examples to illustrate those concepts. Then (and this is one of the true strengths of this OER)—each chapter (particularly Chapters 5-10) highlights student-oriented exercises to practice those same core concepts). Because of this latter emphasis—the Krause OER is ‘learner-centered’ (as opposed to ‘content centered’), problem-oriented and performance-oriented as well—providing opportunities for creative, resourceful teachers to adapt/adopt the OER to course assignments.

[3] There does not appear to be a single (standalone) PDF for this OER. This is a notable flaw/weakness for this textbook. Conversely, however, although a single PDF would have some convenient ‘easier downloading’ advantages for students—having separate chapters affords every teacher to create a customized chapter-order (as I have efficiently done to correspond to my course design). The chapters support excellent modularity and the accompanying exercises/examples demonstrate the concepts Krause explicates with a fine degree of granularity for any teacher. Thus—integrating any textbooks or teaching/learning resources (like OERs) always has tradeoffs—plusses and minuses, positives and negatives. The obvious key, therefore, is taking the liberty of using the OER as a supporting scaffold or buttress to an instructor’s original design concept—rather than the foundation around which a course can be designed.

[4] Some minor weaknesses for prose instruction are (a) Krause’s acceptance of passive, sophomoric signal phrasing (i.e., According to X…)—as opposed to strong, active voice such as ‘’X found…’; and (b) a general overuse of quotation marks throughout the book. This is not meant as a harsh criticism—merely an observation that readability could be improved with a newer version that eliminates most quotation marks (Note: In APA style—these punctuation symbols are only used for verbatim quotes. This makes for a cleaner, clearer manuscript).

[5] One of the solid/helpful strengths of the book is a relatively accurate presentation of APA style for in-text citation and end references (Chapter 12). It appears that like many academics—Krause is more familiar and comfortable with the Modern Language Association’s MLA style/formatting. No problem there—I was simply trained on APA beginning in 1984 so it is native to me; I also use the latest version of APA style in all of my writing (college composition) courses. Thus—it should come as no surprise there are a number of obvious APA-associated inaccuracies including (but limited to): (a) meekly accepting ‘n.d.’ (no date) and ‘n.a.’ (no author) sources when a little investigative research by the student (and adherence to the APA rule hierarchy for dates and authors) would easily come up with a sound date and author. Another error (b) seems to be more typographic (formatting) and/or refers to an earlier edition of APA style: the end references in the PDF (and html versions?) use underline in place of italics. The 2011 APA 6th edition style does not use underline in the end references. There are other small (faux pas) errors such as (c) noting generally inaccessible proprietary online databases and servers (again—no longer done in APA). A thorough, meticulous updating of this OER source would probably take care of many of these APA-error issues. I’d be happy to work with Steve on this update at any time.

[6] I use Amy Guptill’s Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence by Amy Guptill of State University of New York (2016) for my English Composition I course that emphasizes general essay writing and a simple research-supported argumentative essay. I teach that course using the following assigned readings: Week One: Chapter 1 (Really? Writing? Again?), pp. 1-7, and Chapter 2 (What Does the Professor Want? Understanding the Assignment), pp. 9-18; Week Two: Chapter 6 (Back to Basics: The Perfect Paragraph), pp. 48-56; Chapter 7 (Intros and Outros), pp. 57-64; Week Four: Chapter 9 (Getting the Mechanics Right), pp. 75-85; Week Five: Chapter 8 (Clarity and Concision), pp. 65-73; Week Six: Chapter 3 (Constructing the Thesis and Argument—From the Ground Up), pp. 19-27; Week Seven: Chapter 4 (Secondary Sources in Their Natural Habitats), pp. 28-37; Week Eight: Chapter 5 (Listening to Sources, Talking to Sources), pp. 38-47. I then switch over to Krause’s OER for my English Composition II course. At Rogue Community College, Writing 122 emphasizes intermediate essay writing and analytical, more rigorous and original research-based essays involving critical thinking. I completely reordered the chapters as described above to fit into my course design. I like Krause’s individual ‘modular’ chapters—but the particular ‘scope and sequence’ he uses are debatable. Overall, however, The Process of Research Writing easily and effectively substitutes/replaces other costly tomes from for-profit academic publishers—even those that offer bundled DVDs and online-access to proprietary tutorial sources. Used in conjunction with other freely available PDF OERs, websites, YouTube videos, tutorial/practice sites from innumerable libraries, blogs (e.g., the APA Blog is particularly helpful)—as well as original/customized sources created by individual instructors for their own courses—the Krause book offers a good, solid baseline for developing research-based writing competencies particularly appropriate for the first two years of college.

Reviewed by Amy Jo Swing, English Instructor, Lake Superior College on 4/11/17

This book covers most of the main concepts of research writing: thesis, research, documenting, and process. It's weak on argument though, which is standard in most research composition texts. The book provides a clear index so finding information... read more

This book covers most of the main concepts of research writing: thesis, research, documenting, and process. It's weak on argument though, which is standard in most research composition texts. The book provides a clear index so finding information is relatively easy. The other weak spot is on evaluation evidence: there is a section on it but not comprehensive examples. Students in general needs lots of practice on how to evaluate and use information.

The information is accurate mostly except for the APA and MLA section. Writing and research writing haven't changed that much in a long time. It's more the technology and tools that change.

Relevance/Longevity rating: 2

The ideas about research and writing in general are fine, However, the references to technology and documentation are very out of date, over 10 years so. Students use technology very differently than described in this text, and the technologies themselves have changed. For example, the author talks about floppy disks and AOL messenger but not about Google Drive, Wikipedia, Prezi, or how to use phones and tablets while researching. Our students are digital natives and need to understand how to use their devices to write and research.

The book is quite readable in general. Concepts are easy to understand. Sometimes, they are almost too simple like the section explaining what a library is. Students might not be sophisticated library users, but they understand in general how they work. The chapters are concise, which is nice for student use too.

Except for pronoun use, the book is consistent in tone and terms. Not all the terms are ones I use in my own teaching, and it would be nice to see explanation of more argument/research frameworks like the Toulmin Model of argument.

The chapters are pretty self-contained and clear as individual units. I can see including certain chapters and leaving out others that aren't as relevant to my teaching style or assignments. One could easily assign the chapters in a different order, but students ask lots of questions when you assign chapter 6 first and then weeks later, assign chapter 2 or 3.

The basic chapters make sense in terms of how they are created and categorized but the order is problematic if an instructor were to assign them in the order presented. For example, the chapter on creating an annotated bibliography comes before the one on documenting (APA/MLA). Students can't complete an annotated bibliography without knowing how to cite sources. Same with evaluating sources. There is so much information on locating sources before any clear mention is made of how to evaluate them. I find that is the weak spot with students. If they learn how to evaluate sources, it's easier to find and locate and research effectively.

Not many images. Students really like info-graphics, pictures, and multi-media. The hyperlinks to other sections of the book do not work in either the PDF or HTML versions. I do like some of the illustrations like mapping and how research is more a web than a linear process. For an online textbook, there aren't a lot of hyperlinks to outside resources (of which there are so many like Purdue's OWL and the Guide to Grammar and Writing).

There were quite a few errors : comma errors, spelling (affect/effect), some pronoun agreement errors, capitalization errors with the title in Chapter Four. The author also uses passive voice quite a bit, which is inconsistent with the general familiar tone. In some chapters, there is constant switching between first, second, and third person. I focus much on point of view consistency in my students' writing, and this would not be a great model for that.

Cultural Relevance rating: 3

There is no cultural offensiveness but not much diversity in examples and students names either. Marginalized students (of color, with disabilities, of different sexuality or gender) would not see themselves reflected much.

This is a good basic reference on the process of writing and research. However, it would not be too useful without updated information on technology and documentation. As a web-based text, it reads more like a traditional physical textbook.

Reviewed by Jocelyn Pihlaja, Instructor, Lake Superior College on 2/8/17

The length and scope of this book are appropriate for a semester-long research writing course, with twelve chapters that move from foundational concepts into more specific skills that are needed for the crafting of a paper incorporating MLA or APA... read more

The length and scope of this book are appropriate for a semester-long research writing course, with twelve chapters that move from foundational concepts into more specific skills that are needed for the crafting of a paper incorporating MLA or APA citation. In particular, I like that the early chapters cover the questions of "Why Write Research Papers?" and how to think critically, the middle chapters provide specific activities in the skills of quoting and paraphrasing, and the later chapters bring in assignments (such as writing an annotated bibliography) that help students practice and build content for their ultimate paper.There is no index or glossary to this book; however, the table of contents provides an overview of the chapters that guides navigation well.

Content Accuracy rating: 3

In terms of the thinking, this book's information is logical and sound. The explanations of concepts and activities read easily and do a fine job of explicating the why and how of research writing. In a few places, however, the word "effected" is used when it should be "affected." Editing also is needed when the author uses phrases such as "in the nutshell" instead of "in a nutshell." As well, in Chapter 4, there is pronoun/antecedent disagreement when the author uses "their" to refer to "each member." Also, each chapter contains at least one "Hyperlink" to supplemental information, yet the hyperlinks are dead. For the most part, the text is clean and well edited, but we English teachers are line-editing sticklers, so even small, occasional errors stand out. Overall: the ideas presented are accurate and free of bias, yet there are a few, niggling errors.

When it comes to relevance and longevity, this book is problematic. In fact, it is so outdated as to be unusable, at least for this instructor. Certainly, the concepts presented are solid; they don't change with passing years. However, typographically, the book is passe, as it uses two spaces after periods. Even more troubling is that it refers to the Internet as "new" and comes from a point of view that sees this thing called "the World Wide Web" as novel while also noting students might want to rely on microfilm and microfiche during their research. In another example, the author suggests to students that a benefit of writing on computers is that they can share their work with each other on disc or through email. Truly, such references make the book unusable for a class in 2017. Another issue is that the Modern Language Association has updated its guidelines several times since this book's publication; ideally, a text used in a research writing class would cover, if not the latest guidelines, at least the previous version of the guidelines. A full rewrite of the book is necessary before it could be adopted. As the book currently stands, students would roll their eyes at the antiquated technological language, and the teacher would need to apologize for asking students to read a text that is so out-of-date.

The writing in this book is both accessible and intelligent. It's eminently readable. Specifically, the inclusion of things like an "Evidence Quality and Credibility Checklist" at the end of Chapter 1 and the continual use of grey boxes that highlight major concepts is very good. Also extremely helpful are the examples of student writing that end nearly every chapter; these models demonstrate to readers what is expected from each assignment. Finally, the explanations of quoting and paraphrasing are superior -- so clear, so easy for students to digest. Were it not outdated in terms of technological references, I would definitely consider using this book in my classes due to the clarity of the prose.

Consistency rating: 3

For the most part, the book is well structured and consistent in its design and layout. Each chapter provides general explanation of a concept, moves into a specific assignment, and ends with an example or two of student responses to that assignment. Very quickly, readers know what to expect from each chapter, and there's something comforting about the predictability of the layout, especially in a book that is being read on a screen, using scrolling. When it comes to the terminology, my only note would be that the book starts out using a relaxed second-person point of view, addressing students as "you," but then, at the end of Chapter 2, the author suddenly begins also using the first-person "I." This first-person point of view continues throughout the book, so it becomes consistent from that point on, but for me as a reader, I never quite adjusted to that level of informality, particularly when all the sentences using "I" could easily be re-written in the third person. Before reading this text, I hadn't really considered what I like in a book, but now I know: because I want the text to model the ideal, I would prefer a more formal (and consistent) point of view. Today's students struggle to create essays that don't include "you" or "I" -- even when they very consciously are trying to avoid those words. Learning to write from the third person POV is surprisingly challenging. Therefore, my personal preference would be a textbook that consistently models this approach.

The chapters in this book are of a perfect length -- long enough to develop the ideas and present comprehensive explanations yet short enough to be ingested and excised. Put another way, I could see grabbing bits and pieces of this text and using them in my classes. For instance, without adopting the entire text, I still could pull the instructions for the Anti-Thesis essay or the Annotated Bibliography, or I could use the explanation of the purpose of collaboration. Indeed, the chapters and exercises in this book are tight "modules" that allow an instructor to pick and choose or to reorganize the chapters to better fit with an individual course structure. For me, although I won't use this entire text, I can envision incorporating pieces of it into my teaching.

The organization of this book is one of its greatest strengths. It starts with a broad overview of research into an exploration of the process behind seeking out reputable sources, weaves in a few shorter essay assignments that serve as building blocks for a longer paper, and culminates with the ideas for a final, capstone research project -- something that naturally grows out of all the previous chapters. Each chapter in the text flows easily out of the chapter before it. One of this text's greatest strengths is how each successive chapter builds on the concepts presented in the previous chapters.

As noted earlier, the hyperlinks in the book don't work. As well, the screenshots included in the book are blurry and add little, except frustration, to the content. Outside of those issues, though, the book is physically easy to read and navigate, largely thanks to the easy clicking between the table of contents and individual chapters.

As suggested earlier, the book, as a whole, reads easily, yet there are some errors with the homonyms "effected" and "affected," along with pronoun/antecedent disagreement. I also noticed a handful of places where there are extra spaces around commas (in addition to the use of two spaces after periods).

This text is definitely not insensitive or offensive; its tone is fair and balanced, free of bias. On the other hand, this book does not really bring in examples that address diversity. Students reading this book will not see acknowledgment of different races, ethnicities, sexual preferences, or personal histories. Thus, in addition to updating the references to technology, if this book were rewritten, it also could more deliberately address this lack. As it is, the content of this book does feel whitewashed and free of cultural relevance.

There is a lot of promise in this text because the explanations and assignments are so good. But unless it is updated, I don’t see it as usable in a current classroom.

Reviewed by Leana Dickerson, Instructor , Linn Benton Community College on 2/8/17

The author certainly outlines and examines elements of research writing, and does so in a very clear, organized, and thoughtful way. There is no glossary or index included in the text, but the chapters and headings in the table of contents and at... read more

The author certainly outlines and examines elements of research writing, and does so in a very clear, organized, and thoughtful way. There is no glossary or index included in the text, but the chapters and headings in the table of contents and at the beginning of each section very clearly outline what is to be expected from the text. Most all of the concepts are very thoroughly explained and examined including topics that typically are glossed over in research writing texts, including the opposition to argument, close reading, and the importance of research writing to a variety of career pathways. Although thorough in what is present, there are some issues that I would want to touch on with my research students including developing effective argument, logical organization, and examples of the revision process.

The information in this text is accurate and adequately explained. It seems readily accessible for any college age student, but doesn’t expect students to come with a background in research or writing. MLA formatting for works cited pages is up to date, and even addresses the fact that the format for citation changes regularly and points to appropriate resources outside of the text. The only formatting issue that I noticed were some in-text citations (examples throughout early chapters) that included a comma which is no longer expected by the MLA. In the works cited section (and throughout, in examples) when referring to book titles, the author does use the underline function instead of an italicized book title; the author also refers to the use of either italic or underlined differentiation, yet MLA suggests italics in text form.

The content of this text is very straight forward and although essentially up to date, may need updates as relevant technology develops. Updates should be simple and clear to implement as needed because of the strict organization of each chapter.

I found the content clarity in this text to be refreshing for college age students. Often, as an instructor, I ask my students to read a text and then I must re-visit the content in lecture format to ensure that my students are not lost on terminology or foundational knowledge. This text does not assume any prior knowledge from the reader, but also does not feel rudimentary. The formatting and highlighted importance of some information also provided clarity and consistency throughout. The author paced information well, building on major concepts from the beginning and returning to them throughout. The final stages of the text bring students to a major essay that easily shows how each concept included throughout the text can weave into a larger project.

This text is consistent, and feels organized with format, terminology, and the building of content from beginning to end.

The sections in this text are easily broken into segments that can be taught or read at any point throughout the writing process. The text does build on exercises from the beginning to the end, but each of these can be taken out of a linear timeline and used for multiple kinds of projects. The author actually refers to this organization in text, making it clear how each element can work alone or for a streamlined project.

Concepts build upon one another, and yet can be returned to (or jumped to) out of order and still be easy to access and utilize. The text is broken up nicely with bolded, bulleted, or boxed items which designate a stopping point, a discussion to consider, or important details or concepts to focus on.

The layout and navigation of this text online is very accessible, organized, and easy to read. The text PDFs often open in a full browser window, other times they open as PDF documents, but either way include a clean, streamlined format. The text does not seem to be able to be downloaded, making it potentially difficult for students to access without internet access. One issue that I did encounter was that in PDF format, or in html, hyperlinks do not function.

The text is clear, free of grammatical errors, and flows well.

This text is relevant to all audiences and very approachable for college age students.

I found this text to be a refreshing change from what is typically find in research textbooks; it’s relevance to more than just the assignment will help students connect research to the broader concept of academia and other facets of their lives. The antithesis section is a useful way for students to really engage with an opposing opinion and how they can then incorporate that into a successful research project. Also, the differing ways of presenting research I found to be useful for students to think about their project beyond a stapled stack of pages, and to expand that to differing modes of communication and presentation. I look forward to being able to use this text with students.

Reviewed by Samuel Kessler, Postdoctoral Fellow, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University on 2/8/17

"The Process of Research Writing" covers most of the areas students need to understand as they begin research writing at a college level. It has explanations of theses, bibliographies, citations, outlines, first paragraphs, etc. There is no index... read more

"The Process of Research Writing" covers most of the areas students need to understand as they begin research writing at a college level. It has explanations of theses, bibliographies, citations, outlines, first paragraphs, etc. There is no index or glossary, the latter especially being something that would have been very helpful and easy to put together. Krause has many useful definitions and quick-help guides throughout the text, but they are so scattered and ineffectively labeled that it can be very difficult to find them without reading through whole chapters in one's search. On the whole, buried inside these pages, is a very effective guides to *teaching* about research writing. In truth, this book is a teacher's introduction to a class (or, more realistically, three or four class sessions) devoted to college-level academic writing. Unfortunately, there are a lot of words that one has to get through to find all these subject, which can make for tough going.

Based on the questions and errors I see my students making, Krause has done a strong job of highlighting the basics of proper academic research. He spends much time on sources, especially on learning to differentiate between scholarly, trade, and journalistic sources, as well as how to steer clear and note the signs of online schlock (i.e. much of the internet). His tips for peer-to-peer editing and self-reflexive assignments are just the sort of things our students needs help working on.

This is a strange book. The portions that are about implementing class assignments or explaining terms like thesis and antithesis, as well as the examples of an outline or a good first paragraph, are all excellent tools for a classroom.

But there are so many instances of irrelevant or outdates explanations. No college student today needs to read about why writing on a computer is a useful thing to do. No student needs to read about how email can be a tool for academic exchange. A section on using computers for research? On how to copy and paste within a word document? (And no-one calls it the "World Wide Web".) These are issues for the late 90s, not for students in the second decade of the twenty-first century.

There is also a fair amount that is personal and peculiar to the author: a discussion of why he uses the term "research essay" instead of "research paper"? That is just wasted space, and actually without the argumentative merits of a research thesis that he had been teaching up to that point.

For students at research universities, or even at second-tier state and private colleges, the information about libraries and library catalogues changes so quickly that I could never assign those passages. Instead, we'll spend class time looking at our specific library interface. And often, so much material is being sent off-site these days that in many humanities fields its not even possible to scan the shelves any longer. And in science, books are almost irrelevant: online access journals are where the latest research is stored. A bound edition of *Science* from the 1970s contains very little that's important for a scientific research paper written in 2016--unless that paper is about the history of some form of experiment.

Krause writes in a folksy, breezy second-person. Now, so does Tom Friedman of the Times, though that is one of the main criticisms of his otherwise insights books. Krause has a tendency to be overly wordy. This book should more closely resemble Hemingway than Knausgaard in order to be practical. For students who have Facebook etc. open while they're reading this book, every sentence that's not directly relevant will make their minds wander. There are so many sentences that simply need to be cut. To use this book, I'd need to cut and paste just the relevant passages. And without an index or glossary, assigning sections to students is very hard.

"The Process of Research Writing" is internally consistent. Krause maintains the same tone throughout, and defines terms as he goes along. The chapters vary considerably in length, with the short chapters always being more useful and focused, with less superfluous verbiage and fewer authorial quirks.

Modularity rating: 2

"The Process of Research Writing" is a very difficult text to use. The HTML and PDF versions are identical, which defeats the unique way the internet functions. I read this book on both Safari and Chrome, and in neither browser do the hyperlinks work. The tables of content at the heads of each chapter do not link to their respective sections. The projects, assignments, and definitions do not appear in different windows, which would make them possible to keep open while continuing on in the book. There are many instances in which moving back and forth between sections would be very helpful, and that is simply not possible without having multiple windows of the same book open and going between them that way--something that is very clumsy. And again, there are so many superfluous words that even assigning specific chapters means getting through a lot of talk before actually encountering the various hints, tricks, and explanations that are important for learning how to do college-level research.

"The Process of Research Writing" reads like a series of lectures that are meant to be give in a large lecture class, with assignments appended throughout and at the ends. The order of the books is, overall, what one would expect and need for teaching the basics. However, there is a good deal in Chapter 10 that should have appeared earlier (outlines, for instance), and that becomes part of one long chapter that is difficult to use and should have been divided into smaller sections.

As mentioned, in neither Safari nor Chrome do the hyperlinks work. And there appears to have been no planning for links from the chapter tables-of-content to their various associated sections. This makes it very difficult to get between sections or to return to where one was after going somewhere else in the book. Further, there are many links on the internet that remain stable over long periods of time. The Library of Congress, for instance, about which there is a section concerning its cataloguing system, should have a link. As should WorldCat, which for many people who do not have access to a major research library is the best place for learning about texts. Many services like LexusNexus, ABC Clio, and the NY Times archive all also maintain stable websites that should be externally linked.

Except for a smattering of typos, the book has fine (though informal) grammar. This is not a text that could also be used to demonstrate high-level academic writing.

There is nothing culturally offensive here in any way.

In many ways, this is a much better book for teachers of first-year students than for the students themselves. There are many sections of this book to pull out and assign, or to read together in class, to help students gain an understanding of college-level research. But this is not a book I'd ever assign to my students in total. The suggestions for in-class and homework assignments are all high quality pedagogy. But students shouldn't read about their own assignments--they should just do them. Departments can give this book to first-year professors to help them create class periods where they teach their students how to write papers. That would be an excellent use for this text. But as a book for students themselves, I cannot recommend it.

Reviewed by Margaret Wood, Instructor, Klamath Community College on 8/21/16

The book thoroughly covers the material that first-year college research writers need to know including an introduction to basic academic research concepts, searches and source evaluation from library and web resources, a thorough discussion of... read more

The book thoroughly covers the material that first-year college research writers need to know including an introduction to basic academic research concepts, searches and source evaluation from library and web resources, a thorough discussion of summary, paraphrase and direct quotation, collaboration and peer review, topic selection, hypothesis and thesis development, annotated bibliography, text analysis and evaluation, engaging seriously with opposing viewpoints, working with evidence and attributes of evidence, the components of a traditional research essay, alternative forms of presentation (web-based project), and finally MLA and APA documentation. There are also hyperlinks to help readers move to relevant information in other chapters.

While concepts like ethos, logos, and pathos are mentioned in passing, they are not deeply developed. Other topics I generally teach alongside research which are not covered include strategies for defining terms, inductive and deductive logic, and logical fallacies.

I did not identify any inaccuracies or biases. There are areas where focus may be a bit different. For example, the model my institution uses for annotated bibliographies uses the rhetorical precis as a summary model, and also encourages a brief evaluative analysis. On the other hand, the emphasis given to the antithesis is new to me, and looks like a very good idea. I did identify a couple of grammatical issues -- two cases of "effect" instead of "affect", and one pronoun agreement problem.

Good writing principles don't tend to change that much. The discussion of the Web-based research project is very timely.

The book is written in a conversational style which should be easy for students to understand. All technical terms are clearly explained. There are also aids for comprehension and review including: a useful bulleted list at the beginning of each chapter outlines material covered in that chapter; highlighted boxes which provide guidance for class discussion on the topic; sample assignments; easy-to-read checklists of key points.

The text is entirely consistent. Hyperlinks help to connect key points to other chapters.

The material is subdivided into clear and appropriate chapters; moreover, the chapters provide clear subheadings. However, I did identify one instance where subheadings indicated material that is not present in chapter four: Three Ideas for Collaborative Projects * Research Idea Groups * Research Writing Partners * Collaborative Research Writing Projects.

Also, as previously mentioned, some material that I would like to include is not covered in this text.

I feel that chapter 3 should be placed later, at a point in the term where students have actually begun the writing process.

Images, though used infrequently, are blurry, and hyperlinks, at least as I was able to access them, did not appear to be active.

Mentioned above -- two "effect"/"affect" issues and one issue of pronoun agreement

I did not identify any culturally insensitive issues. The one essay topic used throughout, a thesis involving The Great Gatsby, I did not find particularly relevant, since my institution excludes literature from its research projects.

Solid and thorough advice on research writing. Quite heavy on text, but advice is useful and frequently innovative.

Reviewed by Laura Sanders, Instructor, Portland Community College on 8/21/16

The text offers a comprehensive discussion of all the elements of writing a research project. The author covers evaluating sources, using library research, incorporating research into essays, collaborative work, creating a thesis, as well as... read more

The text offers a comprehensive discussion of all the elements of writing a research project.

The author covers evaluating sources, using library research, incorporating research into essays, collaborative work, creating a thesis, as well as writing annotated bibliographies, close reading, opposition, alternative project formats, and citing sources.

Although there is no index or glossary, the text is organized in discrete chapters available on the site as HTML or PDF for easy navigation.

Although I found no inaccuracies, both the APA and MLA handbooks have been updated since the versions used in this text.

Most of the content will not be obsolete any time soon, but the citation chapter is not based on recent APA and MLA handbooks.

The section on alternative ways to present research (Chapter 11) could be updated to include YouTube, Prezi, and more recent technology.

The modular format would make it very easy to update.

The text is written at a level that is appropriate for the target audience, college students who need to build research and writing skills.

This text is internally consistent.

I consider the modules to be one of the main strengths of the text. The sections have useful subheadings.

It would be easy to select specific chapters as course readings.

The chapters follow an intuitive sequence of developing a paper from topic to research to draft.

This text is easy to navigate.

I found no grammar errors.

There are ample opportunities here to add cultural diversity to the sample topics and writing tasks.

I am thrilled to offer this text to my students instead of the incredibly expensive alternatives currently available.

I am particularly interested in using this book for online writing courses, so students who desire more thorough discussion of particular stages of writing a research project could build or refresh foundational skills in these areas.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Thinking Critically About Research
  • Chapter Two: Understanding and Using the Library and the Internet for Research
  • Chapter Three: Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Chapter Four: How to Collaborate and Write With Others
  • Chapter Five: The Working Thesis Exercise
  • Chapter Six: The Annotated Bibliography Exercise
  • Chapter Seven: The Critique Exercise
  • Chapter Eight: The Antithesis Exercise
  • Chapter Nine: The Categorization and Evaluation Exercise
  • Chapter Ten: The Research Essay
  • Chapter Eleven: Alternative Ways to Present Your Research
  • Chapter Twelve: Citing Your Research Using MLA or APA Style

Ancillary Material

About the book.

The title of this book is The Process of Research Writing , and in the nutshell, that is what the book is about. A lot of times, instructors and students tend to separate “thinking,” “researching,” and “writing” into different categories that aren't necessarily very well connected. First you think, then you research, and then you write. The reality is though that the possibilities and process of research writing are more complicated and much richer than that. We think about what it is we want to research and write about, but at the same time, we learn what to think based on our research and our writing. The goal of this book is to guide you through this process of research writing by emphasizing a series of exercises that touch on different and related parts of the research process.

About the Contributors

Steven D. Krause  grew up in eastern Iowa, earned a BA in English at the University of Iowa, an MFA in Fiction Writing at Virginia Commonwealth University, and a PhD in Rhetoric and Writing at Bowling Green State University. He joined the faculty at Eastern Michigan University in 1998.

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Chapter 1: Introduction to Research Methods

Learning Objectives

At the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Define the term “research methods”.
  • List the nine steps in undertaking a research project.
  • Differentiate between applied and basic research.
  • Explain where research ideas come from.
  • Define ontology and epistemology and explain the difference between the two.
  • Identify and describe five key research paradigms in social sciences.
  • Differentiate between inductive and deductive approaches to research.

Welcome to Introduction to Research Methods. In this textbook, you will learn why research is done and, more importantly, about the methods researchers use to conduct research. Research comes in many forms and, although you may feel that it has no relevance to you and/ or that you know nothing about it, you are exposed to research multiple times a day. You also undertake research yourself, perhaps without even realizing it. This course will help you to understand the research you are exposed to on a daily basis, and how to be more critical of the research you read and use in your own life and career.

This text is intended as an introduction. A plethora of resources exists related to more detailed aspects of conducting research; it is not our intention to replace any of these more comprehensive resources. Keep notes and build your own reading list of articles as you go through the course. Feedback helps to improve this open-source textbook, and is appreciated in the development of the resource.

Research Methods, Data Collection and Ethics Copyright © 2020 by Valerie Sheppard is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Chapter 1: What is Research and Research Writing?

Six people of various sizes spread out evenly across the illustration, each next to a plant. Some people are watering the plants, some are gently touching the plant.

Write here, write now.

Developing your skills as a writer will make you more successful in ALL of your classes. Knowing how to think critically, organize your ideas, be concise, ask questions, perform research and back up your claims with evidence is key to almost everything you will do at university.

Writing is life

Solid writing skills will help you wow your family and friends with your well-articulated ideas, ace job interviews, build confidence in yourself, and feel part of a community of writers.

Beyond University

Whether you go on to graduate school, teach, work for the government or a non-profit, start your own business or your own heavy metal band, becoming a stronger writer will give you a solid foundation you can keep building on.

This chapter:

  • Defines research and gives examples
  • Describes the writing process
  • Introduces writing using research
  • Introduces simple research writing
  • Prompts you to think about research and writing meaningful to you

 Kimmerer, Robin Wall. Braiding Sweetgrass : Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants . Milkweed Editions, 2013.

From “ Why Writing Matters “ .   Writing Place: A Scholarly Writing Textbook by Lindsay Cuff. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. 2023.

Reading and Writing Research for Undergraduates Copyright © 2023 by Stephanie Ojeda Ponce is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Chapter 1. Introduction

“Science is in danger, and for that reason it is becoming dangerous” -Pierre Bourdieu, Science of Science and Reflexivity

Why an Open Access Textbook on Qualitative Research Methods?

I have been teaching qualitative research methods to both undergraduates and graduate students for many years.  Although there are some excellent textbooks out there, they are often costly, and none of them, to my mind, properly introduces qualitative research methods to the beginning student (whether undergraduate or graduate student).  In contrast, this open-access textbook is designed as a (free) true introduction to the subject, with helpful, practical pointers on how to conduct research and how to access more advanced instruction.  

Textbooks are typically arranged in one of two ways: (1) by technique (each chapter covers one method used in qualitative research); or (2) by process (chapters advance from research design through publication).  But both of these approaches are necessary for the beginner student.  This textbook will have sections dedicated to the process as well as the techniques of qualitative research.  This is a true “comprehensive” book for the beginning student.  In addition to covering techniques of data collection and data analysis, it provides a road map of how to get started and how to keep going and where to go for advanced instruction.  It covers aspects of research design and research communication as well as methods employed.  Along the way, it includes examples from many different disciplines in the social sciences.

The primary goal has been to create a useful, accessible, engaging textbook for use across many disciplines.  And, let’s face it.  Textbooks can be boring.  I hope readers find this to be a little different.  I have tried to write in a practical and forthright manner, with many lively examples and references to good and intellectually creative qualitative research.  Woven throughout the text are short textual asides (in colored textboxes) by professional (academic) qualitative researchers in various disciplines.  These short accounts by practitioners should help inspire students.  So, let’s begin!

What is Research?

When we use the word research , what exactly do we mean by that?  This is one of those words that everyone thinks they understand, but it is worth beginning this textbook with a short explanation.  We use the term to refer to “empirical research,” which is actually a historically specific approach to understanding the world around us.  Think about how you know things about the world. [1] You might know your mother loves you because she’s told you she does.  Or because that is what “mothers” do by tradition.  Or you might know because you’ve looked for evidence that she does, like taking care of you when you are sick or reading to you in bed or working two jobs so you can have the things you need to do OK in life.  Maybe it seems churlish to look for evidence; you just take it “on faith” that you are loved.

Only one of the above comes close to what we mean by research.  Empirical research is research (investigation) based on evidence.  Conclusions can then be drawn from observable data.  This observable data can also be “tested” or checked.  If the data cannot be tested, that is a good indication that we are not doing research.  Note that we can never “prove” conclusively, through observable data, that our mothers love us.  We might have some “disconfirming evidence” (that time she didn’t show up to your graduation, for example) that could push you to question an original hypothesis , but no amount of “confirming evidence” will ever allow us to say with 100% certainty, “my mother loves me.”  Faith and tradition and authority work differently.  Our knowledge can be 100% certain using each of those alternative methods of knowledge, but our certainty in those cases will not be based on facts or evidence.

For many periods of history, those in power have been nervous about “science” because it uses evidence and facts as the primary source of understanding the world, and facts can be at odds with what power or authority or tradition want you to believe.  That is why I say that scientific empirical research is a historically specific approach to understand the world.  You are in college or university now partly to learn how to engage in this historically specific approach.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe, there was a newfound respect for empirical research, some of which was seriously challenging to the established church.  Using observations and testing them, scientists found that the earth was not at the center of the universe, for example, but rather that it was but one planet of many which circled the sun. [2]   For the next two centuries, the science of astronomy, physics, biology, and chemistry emerged and became disciplines taught in universities.  All used the scientific method of observation and testing to advance knowledge.  Knowledge about people , however, and social institutions, however, was still left to faith, tradition, and authority.  Historians and philosophers and poets wrote about the human condition, but none of them used research to do so. [3]

It was not until the nineteenth century that “social science” really emerged, using the scientific method (empirical observation) to understand people and social institutions.  New fields of sociology, economics, political science, and anthropology emerged.  The first sociologists, people like Auguste Comte and Karl Marx, sought specifically to apply the scientific method of research to understand society, Engels famously claiming that Marx had done for the social world what Darwin did for the natural world, tracings its laws of development.  Today we tend to take for granted the naturalness of science here, but it is actually a pretty recent and radical development.

To return to the question, “does your mother love you?”  Well, this is actually not really how a researcher would frame the question, as it is too specific to your case.  It doesn’t tell us much about the world at large, even if it does tell us something about you and your relationship with your mother.  A social science researcher might ask, “do mothers love their children?”  Or maybe they would be more interested in how this loving relationship might change over time (e.g., “do mothers love their children more now than they did in the 18th century when so many children died before reaching adulthood?”) or perhaps they might be interested in measuring quality of love across cultures or time periods, or even establishing “what love looks like” using the mother/child relationship as a site of exploration.  All of these make good research questions because we can use observable data to answer them.

What is Qualitative Research?

“All we know is how to learn. How to study, how to listen, how to talk, how to tell.  If we don’t tell the world, we don’t know the world.  We’re lost in it, we die.” -Ursula LeGuin, The Telling

At its simplest, qualitative research is research about the social world that does not use numbers in its analyses.  All those who fear statistics can breathe a sigh of relief – there are no mathematical formulae or regression models in this book! But this definition is less about what qualitative research can be and more about what it is not.  To be honest, any simple statement will fail to capture the power and depth of qualitative research.  One way of contrasting qualitative research to quantitative research is to note that the focus of qualitative research is less about explaining and predicting relationships between variables and more about understanding the social world.  To use our mother love example, the question about “what love looks like” is a good question for the qualitative researcher while all questions measuring love or comparing incidences of love (both of which require measurement) are good questions for quantitative researchers. Patton writes,

Qualitative data describe.  They take us, as readers, into the time and place of the observation so that we know what it was like to have been there.  They capture and communicate someone else’s experience of the world in his or her own words.  Qualitative data tell a story. ( Patton 2002:47 )

Qualitative researchers are asking different questions about the world than their quantitative colleagues.  Even when researchers are employed in “mixed methods” research ( both quantitative and qualitative), they are using different methods to address different questions of the study.  I do a lot of research about first-generation and working-college college students.  Where a quantitative researcher might ask, how many first-generation college students graduate from college within four years? Or does first-generation college status predict high student debt loads?  A qualitative researcher might ask, how does the college experience differ for first-generation college students?  What is it like to carry a lot of debt, and how does this impact the ability to complete college on time?  Both sets of questions are important, but they can only be answered using specific tools tailored to those questions.  For the former, you need large numbers to make adequate comparisons.  For the latter, you need to talk to people, find out what they are thinking and feeling, and try to inhabit their shoes for a little while so you can make sense of their experiences and beliefs.

Examples of Qualitative Research

You have probably seen examples of qualitative research before, but you might not have paid particular attention to how they were produced or realized that the accounts you were reading were the result of hours, months, even years of research “in the field.”  A good qualitative researcher will present the product of their hours of work in such a way that it seems natural, even obvious, to the reader.  Because we are trying to convey what it is like answers, qualitative research is often presented as stories – stories about how people live their lives, go to work, raise their children, interact with one another.  In some ways, this can seem like reading particularly insightful novels.  But, unlike novels, there are very specific rules and guidelines that qualitative researchers follow to ensure that the “story” they are telling is accurate , a truthful rendition of what life is like for the people being studied.  Most of this textbook will be spent conveying those rules and guidelines.  Let’s take a look, first, however, at three examples of what the end product looks like.  I have chosen these three examples to showcase very different approaches to qualitative research, and I will return to these five examples throughout the book.  They were all published as whole books (not chapters or articles), and they are worth the long read, if you have the time.  I will also provide some information on how these books came to be and the length of time it takes to get them into book version.  It is important you know about this process, and the rest of this textbook will help explain why it takes so long to conduct good qualitative research!

Example 1 : The End Game (ethnography + interviews)

Corey Abramson is a sociologist who teaches at the University of Arizona.   In 2015 he published The End Game: How Inequality Shapes our Final Years ( 2015 ). This book was based on the research he did for his dissertation at the University of California-Berkeley in 2012.  Actually, the dissertation was completed in 2012 but the work that was produced that took several years.  The dissertation was entitled, “This is How We Live, This is How We Die: Social Stratification, Aging, and Health in Urban America” ( 2012 ).  You can see how the book version, which was written for a more general audience, has a more engaging sound to it, but that the dissertation version, which is what academic faculty read and evaluate, has a more descriptive title.  You can read the title and know that this is a study about aging and health and that the focus is going to be inequality and that the context (place) is going to be “urban America.”  It’s a study about “how” people do something – in this case, how they deal with aging and death.  This is the very first sentence of the dissertation, “From our first breath in the hospital to the day we die, we live in a society characterized by unequal opportunities for maintaining health and taking care of ourselves when ill.  These disparities reflect persistent racial, socio-economic, and gender-based inequalities and contribute to their persistence over time” ( 1 ).  What follows is a truthful account of how that is so.

Cory Abramson spent three years conducting his research in four different urban neighborhoods.  We call the type of research he conducted “comparative ethnographic” because he designed his study to compare groups of seniors as they went about their everyday business.  It’s comparative because he is comparing different groups (based on race, class, gender) and ethnographic because he is studying the culture/way of life of a group. [4]   He had an educated guess, rooted in what previous research had shown and what social theory would suggest, that people’s experiences of aging differ by race, class, and gender.  So, he set up a research design that would allow him to observe differences.  He chose two primarily middle-class (one was racially diverse and the other was predominantly White) and two primarily poor neighborhoods (one was racially diverse and the other was predominantly African American).  He hung out in senior centers and other places seniors congregated, watched them as they took the bus to get prescriptions filled, sat in doctor’s offices with them, and listened to their conversations with each other.  He also conducted more formal conversations, what we call in-depth interviews, with sixty seniors from each of the four neighborhoods.  As with a lot of fieldwork , as he got closer to the people involved, he both expanded and deepened his reach –

By the end of the project, I expanded my pool of general observations to include various settings frequented by seniors: apartment building common rooms, doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, pharmacies, senior centers, bars, parks, corner stores, shopping centers, pool halls, hair salons, coffee shops, and discount stores. Over the course of the three years of fieldwork, I observed hundreds of elders, and developed close relationships with a number of them. ( 2012:10 )

When Abramson rewrote the dissertation for a general audience and published his book in 2015, it got a lot of attention.  It is a beautifully written book and it provided insight into a common human experience that we surprisingly know very little about.  It won the Outstanding Publication Award by the American Sociological Association Section on Aging and the Life Course and was featured in the New York Times .  The book was about aging, and specifically how inequality shapes the aging process, but it was also about much more than that.  It helped show how inequality affects people’s everyday lives.  For example, by observing the difficulties the poor had in setting up appointments and getting to them using public transportation and then being made to wait to see a doctor, sometimes in standing-room-only situations, when they are unwell, and then being treated dismissively by hospital staff, Abramson allowed readers to feel the material reality of being poor in the US.  Comparing these examples with seniors with adequate supplemental insurance who have the resources to hire car services or have others assist them in arranging care when they need it, jolts the reader to understand and appreciate the difference money makes in the lives and circumstances of us all, and in a way that is different than simply reading a statistic (“80% of the poor do not keep regular doctor’s appointments”) does.  Qualitative research can reach into spaces and places that often go unexamined and then reports back to the rest of us what it is like in those spaces and places.

Example 2: Racing for Innocence (Interviews + Content Analysis + Fictional Stories)

Jennifer Pierce is a Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota.  Trained as a sociologist, she has written a number of books about gender, race, and power.  Her very first book, Gender Trials: Emotional Lives in Contemporary Law Firms, published in 1995, is a brilliant look at gender dynamics within two law firms.  Pierce was a participant observer, working as a paralegal, and she observed how female lawyers and female paralegals struggled to obtain parity with their male colleagues.

Fifteen years later, she reexamined the context of the law firm to include an examination of racial dynamics, particularly how elite white men working in these spaces created and maintained a culture that made it difficult for both female attorneys and attorneys of color to thrive. Her book, Racing for Innocence: Whiteness, Gender, and the Backlash Against Affirmative Action , published in 2012, is an interesting and creative blending of interviews with attorneys, content analyses of popular films during this period, and fictional accounts of racial discrimination and sexual harassment.  The law firm she chose to study had come under an affirmative action order and was in the process of implementing equitable policies and programs.  She wanted to understand how recipients of white privilege (the elite white male attorneys) come to deny the role they play in reproducing inequality.  Through interviews with attorneys who were present both before and during the affirmative action order, she creates a historical record of the “bad behavior” that necessitated new policies and procedures, but also, and more importantly , probed the participants ’ understanding of this behavior.  It should come as no surprise that most (but not all) of the white male attorneys saw little need for change, and that almost everyone else had accounts that were different if not sometimes downright harrowing.

I’ve used Pierce’s book in my qualitative research methods courses as an example of an interesting blend of techniques and presentation styles.  My students often have a very difficult time with the fictional accounts she includes.  But they serve an important communicative purpose here.  They are her attempts at presenting “both sides” to an objective reality – something happens (Pierce writes this something so it is very clear what it is), and the two participants to the thing that happened have very different understandings of what this means.  By including these stories, Pierce presents one of her key findings – people remember things differently and these different memories tend to support their own ideological positions.  I wonder what Pierce would have written had she studied the murder of George Floyd or the storming of the US Capitol on January 6 or any number of other historic events whose observers and participants record very different happenings.

This is not to say that qualitative researchers write fictional accounts.  In fact, the use of fiction in our work remains controversial.  When used, it must be clearly identified as a presentation device, as Pierce did.  I include Racing for Innocence here as an example of the multiple uses of methods and techniques and the way that these work together to produce better understandings by us, the readers, of what Pierce studied.  We readers come away with a better grasp of how and why advantaged people understate their own involvement in situations and structures that advantage them.  This is normal human behavior , in other words.  This case may have been about elite white men in law firms, but the general insights here can be transposed to other settings.  Indeed, Pierce argues that more research needs to be done about the role elites play in the reproduction of inequality in the workplace in general.

Example 3: Amplified Advantage (Mixed Methods: Survey Interviews + Focus Groups + Archives)

The final example comes from my own work with college students, particularly the ways in which class background affects the experience of college and outcomes for graduates.  I include it here as an example of mixed methods, and for the use of supplementary archival research.  I’ve done a lot of research over the years on first-generation, low-income, and working-class college students.  I am curious (and skeptical) about the possibility of social mobility today, particularly with the rising cost of college and growing inequality in general.  As one of the few people in my family to go to college, I didn’t grow up with a lot of examples of what college was like or how to make the most of it.  And when I entered graduate school, I realized with dismay that there were very few people like me there.  I worried about becoming too different from my family and friends back home.  And I wasn’t at all sure that I would ever be able to pay back the huge load of debt I was taking on.  And so I wrote my dissertation and first two books about working-class college students.  These books focused on experiences in college and the difficulties of navigating between family and school ( Hurst 2010a, 2012 ).  But even after all that research, I kept coming back to wondering if working-class students who made it through college had an equal chance at finding good jobs and happy lives,

What happens to students after college?  Do working-class students fare as well as their peers?  I knew from my own experience that barriers continued through graduate school and beyond, and that my debtload was higher than that of my peers, constraining some of the choices I made when I graduated.  To answer these questions, I designed a study of students attending small liberal arts colleges, the type of college that tried to equalize the experience of students by requiring all students to live on campus and offering small classes with lots of interaction with faculty.  These private colleges tend to have more money and resources so they can provide financial aid to low-income students.  They also attract some very wealthy students.  Because they enroll students across the class spectrum, I would be able to draw comparisons.  I ended up spending about four years collecting data, both a survey of more than 2000 students (which formed the basis for quantitative analyses) and qualitative data collection (interviews, focus groups, archival research, and participant observation).  This is what we call a “mixed methods” approach because we use both quantitative and qualitative data.  The survey gave me a large enough number of students that I could make comparisons of the how many kind, and to be able to say with some authority that there were in fact significant differences in experience and outcome by class (e.g., wealthier students earned more money and had little debt; working-class students often found jobs that were not in their chosen careers and were very affected by debt, upper-middle-class students were more likely to go to graduate school).  But the survey analyses could not explain why these differences existed.  For that, I needed to talk to people and ask them about their motivations and aspirations.  I needed to understand their perceptions of the world, and it is very hard to do this through a survey.

By interviewing students and recent graduates, I was able to discern particular patterns and pathways through college and beyond.  Specifically, I identified three versions of gameplay.  Upper-middle-class students, whose parents were themselves professionals (academics, lawyers, managers of non-profits), saw college as the first stage of their education and took classes and declared majors that would prepare them for graduate school.  They also spent a lot of time building their resumes, taking advantage of opportunities to help professors with their research, or study abroad.  This helped them gain admission to highly-ranked graduate schools and interesting jobs in the public sector.  In contrast, upper-class students, whose parents were wealthy and more likely to be engaged in business (as CEOs or other high-level directors), prioritized building social capital.  They did this by joining fraternities and sororities and playing club sports.  This helped them when they graduated as they called on friends and parents of friends to find them well-paying jobs.  Finally, low-income, first-generation, and working-class students were often adrift.  They took the classes that were recommended to them but without the knowledge of how to connect them to life beyond college.  They spent time working and studying rather than partying or building their resumes.  All three sets of students thought they were “doing college” the right way, the way that one was supposed to do college.   But these three versions of gameplay led to distinct outcomes that advantaged some students over others.  I titled my work “Amplified Advantage” to highlight this process.

These three examples, Cory Abramson’s The End Game , Jennifer Peirce’s Racing for Innocence, and my own Amplified Advantage, demonstrate the range of approaches and tools available to the qualitative researcher.  They also help explain why qualitative research is so important.  Numbers can tell us some things about the world, but they cannot get at the hearts and minds, motivations and beliefs of the people who make up the social worlds we inhabit.  For that, we need tools that allow us to listen and make sense of what people tell us and show us.  That is what good qualitative research offers us.

How Is This Book Organized?

This textbook is organized as a comprehensive introduction to the use of qualitative research methods.  The first half covers general topics (e.g., approaches to qualitative research, ethics) and research design (necessary steps for building a successful qualitative research study).  The second half reviews various data collection and data analysis techniques.  Of course, building a successful qualitative research study requires some knowledge of data collection and data analysis so the chapters in the first half and the chapters in the second half should be read in conversation with each other.  That said, each chapter can be read on its own for assistance with a particular narrow topic.  In addition to the chapters, a helpful glossary can be found in the back of the book.  Rummage around in the text as needed.

Chapter Descriptions

Chapter 2 provides an overview of the Research Design Process.  How does one begin a study? What is an appropriate research question?  How is the study to be done – with what methods ?  Involving what people and sites?  Although qualitative research studies can and often do change and develop over the course of data collection, it is important to have a good idea of what the aims and goals of your study are at the outset and a good plan of how to achieve those aims and goals.  Chapter 2 provides a road map of the process.

Chapter 3 describes and explains various ways of knowing the (social) world.  What is it possible for us to know about how other people think or why they behave the way they do?  What does it mean to say something is a “fact” or that it is “well-known” and understood?  Qualitative researchers are particularly interested in these questions because of the types of research questions we are interested in answering (the how questions rather than the how many questions of quantitative research).  Qualitative researchers have adopted various epistemological approaches.  Chapter 3 will explore these approaches, highlighting interpretivist approaches that acknowledge the subjective aspect of reality – in other words, reality and knowledge are not objective but rather influenced by (interpreted through) people.

Chapter 4 focuses on the practical matter of developing a research question and finding the right approach to data collection.  In any given study (think of Cory Abramson’s study of aging, for example), there may be years of collected data, thousands of observations , hundreds of pages of notes to read and review and make sense of.  If all you had was a general interest area (“aging”), it would be very difficult, nearly impossible, to make sense of all of that data.  The research question provides a helpful lens to refine and clarify (and simplify) everything you find and collect.  For that reason, it is important to pull out that lens (articulate the research question) before you get started.  In the case of the aging study, Cory Abramson was interested in how inequalities affected understandings and responses to aging.  It is for this reason he designed a study that would allow him to compare different groups of seniors (some middle-class, some poor).  Inevitably, he saw much more in the three years in the field than what made it into his book (or dissertation), but he was able to narrow down the complexity of the social world to provide us with this rich account linked to the original research question.  Developing a good research question is thus crucial to effective design and a successful outcome.  Chapter 4 will provide pointers on how to do this.  Chapter 4 also provides an overview of general approaches taken to doing qualitative research and various “traditions of inquiry.”

Chapter 5 explores sampling .  After you have developed a research question and have a general idea of how you will collect data (Observations?  Interviews?), how do you go about actually finding people and sites to study?  Although there is no “correct number” of people to interview , the sample should follow the research question and research design.  Unlike quantitative research, qualitative research involves nonprobability sampling.  Chapter 5 explains why this is so and what qualities instead make a good sample for qualitative research.

Chapter 6 addresses the importance of reflexivity in qualitative research.  Related to epistemological issues of how we know anything about the social world, qualitative researchers understand that we the researchers can never be truly neutral or outside the study we are conducting.  As observers, we see things that make sense to us and may entirely miss what is either too obvious to note or too different to comprehend.  As interviewers, as much as we would like to ask questions neutrally and remain in the background, interviews are a form of conversation, and the persons we interview are responding to us .  Therefore, it is important to reflect upon our social positions and the knowledges and expectations we bring to our work and to work through any blind spots that we may have.  Chapter 6 provides some examples of reflexivity in practice and exercises for thinking through one’s own biases.

Chapter 7 is a very important chapter and should not be overlooked.  As a practical matter, it should also be read closely with chapters 6 and 8.  Because qualitative researchers deal with people and the social world, it is imperative they develop and adhere to a strong ethical code for conducting research in a way that does not harm.  There are legal requirements and guidelines for doing so (see chapter 8), but these requirements should not be considered synonymous with the ethical code required of us.   Each researcher must constantly interrogate every aspect of their research, from research question to design to sample through analysis and presentation, to ensure that a minimum of harm (ideally, zero harm) is caused.  Because each research project is unique, the standards of care for each study are unique.  Part of being a professional researcher is carrying this code in one’s heart, being constantly attentive to what is required under particular circumstances.  Chapter 7 provides various research scenarios and asks readers to weigh in on the suitability and appropriateness of the research.  If done in a class setting, it will become obvious fairly quickly that there are often no absolutely correct answers, as different people find different aspects of the scenarios of greatest importance.  Minimizing the harm in one area may require possible harm in another.  Being attentive to all the ethical aspects of one’s research and making the best judgments one can, clearly and consciously, is an integral part of being a good researcher.

Chapter 8 , best to be read in conjunction with chapter 7, explains the role and importance of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) .  Under federal guidelines, an IRB is an appropriately constituted group that has been formally designated to review and monitor research involving human subjects .  Every institution that receives funding from the federal government has an IRB.  IRBs have the authority to approve, require modifications to (to secure approval), or disapprove research.  This group review serves an important role in the protection of the rights and welfare of human research subjects.  Chapter 8 reviews the history of IRBs and the work they do but also argues that IRBs’ review of qualitative research is often both over-inclusive and under-inclusive.  Some aspects of qualitative research are not well understood by IRBs, given that they were developed to prevent abuses in biomedical research.  Thus, it is important not to rely on IRBs to identify all the potential ethical issues that emerge in our research (see chapter 7).

Chapter 9 provides help for getting started on formulating a research question based on gaps in the pre-existing literature.  Research is conducted as part of a community, even if particular studies are done by single individuals (or small teams).  What any of us finds and reports back becomes part of a much larger body of knowledge.  Thus, it is important that we look at the larger body of knowledge before we actually start our bit to see how we can best contribute.  When I first began interviewing working-class college students, there was only one other similar study I could find, and it hadn’t been published (it was a dissertation of students from poor backgrounds).  But there had been a lot published by professors who had grown up working class and made it through college despite the odds.  These accounts by “working-class academics” became an important inspiration for my study and helped me frame the questions I asked the students I interviewed.  Chapter 9 will provide some pointers on how to search for relevant literature and how to use this to refine your research question.

Chapter 10 serves as a bridge between the two parts of the textbook, by introducing techniques of data collection.  Qualitative research is often characterized by the form of data collection – for example, an ethnographic study is one that employs primarily observational data collection for the purpose of documenting and presenting a particular culture or ethnos.  Techniques can be effectively combined, depending on the research question and the aims and goals of the study.   Chapter 10 provides a general overview of all the various techniques and how they can be combined.

The second part of the textbook moves into the doing part of qualitative research once the research question has been articulated and the study designed.  Chapters 11 through 17 cover various data collection techniques and approaches.  Chapters 18 and 19 provide a very simple overview of basic data analysis.  Chapter 20 covers communication of the data to various audiences, and in various formats.

Chapter 11 begins our overview of data collection techniques with a focus on interviewing , the true heart of qualitative research.  This technique can serve as the primary and exclusive form of data collection, or it can be used to supplement other forms (observation, archival).  An interview is distinct from a survey, where questions are asked in a specific order and often with a range of predetermined responses available.  Interviews can be conversational and unstructured or, more conventionally, semistructured , where a general set of interview questions “guides” the conversation.  Chapter 11 covers the basics of interviews: how to create interview guides, how many people to interview, where to conduct the interview, what to watch out for (how to prepare against things going wrong), and how to get the most out of your interviews.

Chapter 12 covers an important variant of interviewing, the focus group.  Focus groups are semistructured interviews with a group of people moderated by a facilitator (the researcher or researcher’s assistant).  Focus groups explicitly use group interaction to assist in the data collection.  They are best used to collect data on a specific topic that is non-personal and shared among the group.  For example, asking a group of college students about a common experience such as taking classes by remote delivery during the pandemic year of 2020.  Chapter 12 covers the basics of focus groups: when to use them, how to create interview guides for them, and how to run them effectively.

Chapter 13 moves away from interviewing to the second major form of data collection unique to qualitative researchers – observation .  Qualitative research that employs observation can best be understood as falling on a continuum of “fly on the wall” observation (e.g., observing how strangers interact in a doctor’s waiting room) to “participant” observation, where the researcher is also an active participant of the activity being observed.  For example, an activist in the Black Lives Matter movement might want to study the movement, using her inside position to gain access to observe key meetings and interactions.  Chapter  13 covers the basics of participant observation studies: advantages and disadvantages, gaining access, ethical concerns related to insider/outsider status and entanglement, and recording techniques.

Chapter 14 takes a closer look at “deep ethnography” – immersion in the field of a particularly long duration for the purpose of gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of a particular culture or social world.  Clifford Geertz called this “deep hanging out.”  Whereas participant observation is often combined with semistructured interview techniques, deep ethnography’s commitment to “living the life” or experiencing the situation as it really is demands more conversational and natural interactions with people.  These interactions and conversations may take place over months or even years.  As can be expected, there are some costs to this technique, as well as some very large rewards when done competently.  Chapter 14 provides some examples of deep ethnographies that will inspire some beginning researchers and intimidate others.

Chapter 15 moves in the opposite direction of deep ethnography, a technique that is the least positivist of all those discussed here, to mixed methods , a set of techniques that is arguably the most positivist .  A mixed methods approach combines both qualitative data collection and quantitative data collection, commonly by combining a survey that is analyzed statistically (e.g., cross-tabs or regression analyses of large number probability samples) with semi-structured interviews.  Although it is somewhat unconventional to discuss mixed methods in textbooks on qualitative research, I think it is important to recognize this often-employed approach here.  There are several advantages and some disadvantages to taking this route.  Chapter 16 will describe those advantages and disadvantages and provide some particular guidance on how to design a mixed methods study for maximum effectiveness.

Chapter 16 covers data collection that does not involve live human subjects at all – archival and historical research (chapter 17 will also cover data that does not involve interacting with human subjects).  Sometimes people are unavailable to us, either because they do not wish to be interviewed or observed (as is the case with many “elites”) or because they are too far away, in both place and time.  Fortunately, humans leave many traces and we can often answer questions we have by examining those traces.  Special collections and archives can be goldmines for social science research.  This chapter will explain how to access these places, for what purposes, and how to begin to make sense of what you find.

Chapter 17 covers another data collection area that does not involve face-to-face interaction with humans: content analysis .  Although content analysis may be understood more properly as a data analysis technique, the term is often used for the entire approach, which will be the case here.  Content analysis involves interpreting meaning from a body of text.  This body of text might be something found in historical records (see chapter 16) or something collected by the researcher, as in the case of comment posts on a popular blog post.  I once used the stories told by student loan debtors on the website as the content I analyzed.  Content analysis is particularly useful when attempting to define and understand prevalent stories or communication about a topic of interest.  In other words, when we are less interested in what particular people (our defined sample) are doing or believing and more interested in what general narratives exist about a particular topic or issue.  This chapter will explore different approaches to content analysis and provide helpful tips on how to collect data, how to turn that data into codes for analysis, and how to go about presenting what is found through analysis.

Where chapter 17 has pushed us towards data analysis, chapters 18 and 19 are all about what to do with the data collected, whether that data be in the form of interview transcripts or fieldnotes from observations.  Chapter 18 introduces the basics of coding , the iterative process of assigning meaning to the data in order to both simplify and identify patterns.  What is a code and how does it work?  What are the different ways of coding data, and when should you use them?  What is a codebook, and why do you need one?  What does the process of data analysis look like?

Chapter 19 goes further into detail on codes and how to use them, particularly the later stages of coding in which our codes are refined, simplified, combined, and organized.  These later rounds of coding are essential to getting the most out of the data we’ve collected.  As students are often overwhelmed with the amount of data (a corpus of interview transcripts typically runs into the hundreds of pages; fieldnotes can easily top that), this chapter will also address time management and provide suggestions for dealing with chaos and reminders that feeling overwhelmed at the analysis stage is part of the process.  By the end of the chapter, you should understand how “findings” are actually found.

The book concludes with a chapter dedicated to the effective presentation of data results.  Chapter 20 covers the many ways that researchers communicate their studies to various audiences (academic, personal, political), what elements must be included in these various publications, and the hallmarks of excellent qualitative research that various audiences will be expecting.  Because qualitative researchers are motivated by understanding and conveying meaning , effective communication is not only an essential skill but a fundamental facet of the entire research project.  Ethnographers must be able to convey a certain sense of verisimilitude , the appearance of true reality.  Those employing interviews must faithfully depict the key meanings of the people they interviewed in a way that rings true to those people, even if the end result surprises them.  And all researchers must strive for clarity in their publications so that various audiences can understand what was found and why it is important.

The book concludes with a short chapter ( chapter 21 ) discussing the value of qualitative research. At the very end of this book, you will find a glossary of terms. I recommend you make frequent use of the glossary and add to each entry as you find examples. Although the entries are meant to be simple and clear, you may also want to paraphrase the definition—make it “make sense” to you, in other words. In addition to the standard reference list (all works cited here), you will find various recommendations for further reading at the end of many chapters. Some of these recommendations will be examples of excellent qualitative research, indicated with an asterisk (*) at the end of the entry. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. A good example of qualitative research can teach you more about conducting research than any textbook can (this one included). I highly recommend you select one to three examples from these lists and read them along with the textbook.

A final note on the choice of examples – you will note that many of the examples used in the text come from research on college students.  This is for two reasons.  First, as most of my research falls in this area, I am most familiar with this literature and have contacts with those who do research here and can call upon them to share their stories with you.  Second, and more importantly, my hope is that this textbook reaches a wide audience of beginning researchers who study widely and deeply across the range of what can be known about the social world (from marine resources management to public policy to nursing to political science to sexuality studies and beyond).  It is sometimes difficult to find examples that speak to all those research interests, however. A focus on college students is something that all readers can understand and, hopefully, appreciate, as we are all now or have been at some point a college student.

Recommended Reading: Other Qualitative Research Textbooks

I’ve included a brief list of some of my favorite qualitative research textbooks and guidebooks if you need more than what you will find in this introductory text.  For each, I’ve also indicated if these are for “beginning” or “advanced” (graduate-level) readers.  Many of these books have several editions that do not significantly vary; the edition recommended is merely the edition I have used in teaching and to whose page numbers any specific references made in the text agree.

Barbour, Rosaline. 2014. Introducing Qualitative Research: A Student’s Guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.  A good introduction to qualitative research, with abundant examples (often from the discipline of health care) and clear definitions.  Includes quick summaries at the ends of each chapter.  However, some US students might find the British context distracting and can be a bit advanced in some places.  Beginning .

Bloomberg, Linda Dale, and Marie F. Volpe. 2012. Completing Your Qualitative Dissertation . 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.  Specifically designed to guide graduate students through the research process. Advanced .

Creswell, John W., and Cheryl Poth. 2018 Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing among Five Traditions .  4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.  This is a classic and one of the go-to books I used myself as a graduate student.  One of the best things about this text is its clear presentation of five distinct traditions in qualitative research.  Despite the title, this reasonably sized book is about more than research design, including both data analysis and how to write about qualitative research.  Advanced .

Lareau, Annette. 2021. Listening to People: A Practical Guide to Interviewing, Participant Observation, Data Analysis, and Writing It All Up .  Chicago: University of Chicago Press. A readable and personal account of conducting qualitative research by an eminent sociologist, with a heavy emphasis on the kinds of participant-observation research conducted by the author.  Despite its reader-friendliness, this is really a book targeted to graduate students learning the craft.  Advanced .

Lune, Howard, and Bruce L. Berg. 2018. 9th edition.  Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences.  Pearson . Although a good introduction to qualitative methods, the authors favor symbolic interactionist and dramaturgical approaches, which limits the appeal primarily to sociologists.  Beginning .

Marshall, Catherine, and Gretchen B. Rossman. 2016. 6th edition. Designing Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.  Very readable and accessible guide to research design by two educational scholars.  Although the presentation is sometimes fairly dry, personal vignettes and illustrations enliven the text.  Beginning .

Maxwell, Joseph A. 2013. Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach .  3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. A short and accessible introduction to qualitative research design, particularly helpful for graduate students contemplating theses and dissertations. This has been a standard textbook in my graduate-level courses for years.  Advanced .

Patton, Michael Quinn. 2002. Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.  This is a comprehensive text that served as my “go-to” reference when I was a graduate student.  It is particularly helpful for those involved in program evaluation and other forms of evaluation studies and uses examples from a wide range of disciplines.  Advanced .

Rubin, Ashley T. 2021. Rocking Qualitative Social Science: An Irreverent Guide to Rigorous Research. Stanford : Stanford University Press.  A delightful and personal read.  Rubin uses rock climbing as an extended metaphor for learning how to conduct qualitative research.  A bit slanted toward ethnographic and archival methods of data collection, with frequent examples from her own studies in criminology. Beginning .

Weis, Lois, and Michelle Fine. 2000. Speed Bumps: A Student-Friendly Guide to Qualitative Research . New York: Teachers College Press.  Readable and accessibly written in a quasi-conversational style.  Particularly strong in its discussion of ethical issues throughout the qualitative research process.  Not comprehensive, however, and very much tied to ethnographic research.  Although designed for graduate students, this is a recommended read for students of all levels.  Beginning .

Patton’s Ten Suggestions for Doing Qualitative Research

The following ten suggestions were made by Michael Quinn Patton in his massive textbooks Qualitative Research and Evaluations Methods . This book is highly recommended for those of you who want more than an introduction to qualitative methods. It is the book I relied on heavily when I was a graduate student, although it is much easier to “dip into” when necessary than to read through as a whole. Patton is asked for “just one bit of advice” for a graduate student considering using qualitative research methods for their dissertation.  Here are his top ten responses, in short form, heavily paraphrased, and with additional comments and emphases from me:

  • Make sure that a qualitative approach fits the research question. The following are the kinds of questions that call out for qualitative methods or where qualitative methods are particularly appropriate: questions about people’s experiences or how they make sense of those experiences; studying a person in their natural environment; researching a phenomenon so unknown that it would be impossible to study it with standardized instruments or other forms of quantitative data collection.
  • Study qualitative research by going to the original sources for the design and analysis appropriate to the particular approach you want to take (e.g., read Glaser and Straus if you are using grounded theory )
  • Find a dissertation adviser who understands or at least who will support your use of qualitative research methods. You are asking for trouble if your entire committee is populated by quantitative researchers, even if they are all very knowledgeable about the subject or focus of your study (maybe even more so if they are!)
  • Really work on design. Doing qualitative research effectively takes a lot of planning.  Even if things are more flexible than in quantitative research, a good design is absolutely essential when starting out.
  • Practice data collection techniques, particularly interviewing and observing. There is definitely a set of learned skills here!  Do not expect your first interview to be perfect.  You will continue to grow as a researcher the more interviews you conduct, and you will probably come to understand yourself a bit more in the process, too.  This is not easy, despite what others who don’t work with qualitative methods may assume (and tell you!)
  • Have a plan for analysis before you begin data collection. This is often a requirement in IRB protocols , although you can get away with writing something fairly simple.  And even if you are taking an approach, such as grounded theory, that pushes you to remain fairly open-minded during the data collection process, you still want to know what you will be doing with all the data collected – creating a codebook? Writing analytical memos? Comparing cases?  Having a plan in hand will also help prevent you from collecting too much extraneous data.
  • Be prepared to confront controversies both within the qualitative research community and between qualitative research and quantitative research. Don’t be naïve about this – qualitative research, particularly some approaches, will be derided by many more “positivist” researchers and audiences.  For example, is an “n” of 1 really sufficient?  Yes!  But not everyone will agree.
  • Do not make the mistake of using qualitative research methods because someone told you it was easier, or because you are intimidated by the math required of statistical analyses. Qualitative research is difficult in its own way (and many would claim much more time-consuming than quantitative research).  Do it because you are convinced it is right for your goals, aims, and research questions.
  • Find a good support network. This could be a research mentor, or it could be a group of friends or colleagues who are also using qualitative research, or it could be just someone who will listen to you work through all of the issues you will confront out in the field and during the writing process.  Even though qualitative research often involves human subjects, it can be pretty lonely.  A lot of times you will feel like you are working without a net.  You have to create one for yourself.  Take care of yourself.
  • And, finally, in the words of Patton, “Prepare to be changed. Looking deeply at other people’s lives will force you to look deeply at yourself.”
  • We will actually spend an entire chapter ( chapter 3 ) looking at this question in much more detail! ↵
  • Note that this might have been news to Europeans at the time, but many other societies around the world had also come to this conclusion through observation.  There is often a tendency to equate “the scientific revolution” with the European world in which it took place, but this is somewhat misleading. ↵
  • Historians are a special case here.  Historians have scrupulously and rigorously investigated the social world, but not for the purpose of understanding general laws about how things work, which is the point of scientific empirical research.  History is often referred to as an idiographic field of study, meaning that it studies things that happened or are happening in themselves and not for general observations or conclusions. ↵
  • Don’t worry, we’ll spend more time later in this book unpacking the meaning of ethnography and other terms that are important here.  Note the available glossary ↵

An approach to research that is “multimethod in focus, involving an interpretative, naturalistic approach to its subject matter.  This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them.  Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials – case study, personal experience, introspective, life story, interview, observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts – that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals’ lives." ( Denzin and Lincoln 2005:2 ). Contrast with quantitative research .

In contrast to methodology, methods are more simply the practices and tools used to collect and analyze data.  Examples of common methods in qualitative research are interviews , observations , and documentary analysis .  One’s methodology should connect to one’s choice of methods, of course, but they are distinguishable terms.  See also methodology .

A proposed explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation.  The positing of a hypothesis is often the first step in quantitative research but not in qualitative research.  Even when qualitative researchers offer possible explanations in advance of conducting research, they will tend to not use the word “hypothesis” as it conjures up the kind of positivist research they are not conducting.

The foundational question to be addressed by the research study.  This will form the anchor of the research design, collection, and analysis.  Note that in qualitative research, the research question may, and probably will, alter or develop during the course of the research.

An approach to research that collects and analyzes numerical data for the purpose of finding patterns and averages, making predictions, testing causal relationships, and generalizing results to wider populations.  Contrast with qualitative research .

Data collection that takes place in real-world settings, referred to as “the field;” a key component of much Grounded Theory and ethnographic research.  Patton ( 2002 ) calls fieldwork “the central activity of qualitative inquiry” where “‘going into the field’ means having direct and personal contact with people under study in their own environments – getting close to people and situations being studied to personally understand the realities of minutiae of daily life” (48).

The people who are the subjects of a qualitative study.  In interview-based studies, they may be the respondents to the interviewer; for purposes of IRBs, they are often referred to as the human subjects of the research.

The branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge.  For researchers, it is important to recognize and adopt one of the many distinguishing epistemological perspectives as part of our understanding of what questions research can address or fully answer.  See, e.g., constructivism , subjectivism, and  objectivism .

An approach that refutes the possibility of neutrality in social science research.  All research is “guided by a set of beliefs and feelings about the world and how it should be understood and studied” (Denzin and Lincoln 2005: 13).  In contrast to positivism , interpretivism recognizes the social constructedness of reality, and researchers adopting this approach focus on capturing interpretations and understandings people have about the world rather than “the world” as it is (which is a chimera).

The cluster of data-collection tools and techniques that involve observing interactions between people, the behaviors, and practices of individuals (sometimes in contrast to what they say about how they act and behave), and cultures in context.  Observational methods are the key tools employed by ethnographers and Grounded Theory .

Research based on data collected and analyzed by the research (in contrast to secondary “library” research).

The process of selecting people or other units of analysis to represent a larger population. In quantitative research, this representation is taken quite literally, as statistically representative.  In qualitative research, in contrast, sample selection is often made based on potential to generate insight about a particular topic or phenomenon.

A method of data collection in which the researcher asks the participant questions; the answers to these questions are often recorded and transcribed verbatim. There are many different kinds of interviews - see also semistructured interview , structured interview , and unstructured interview .

The specific group of individuals that you will collect data from.  Contrast population.

The practice of being conscious of and reflective upon one’s own social location and presence when conducting research.  Because qualitative research often requires interaction with live humans, failing to take into account how one’s presence and prior expectations and social location affect the data collected and how analyzed may limit the reliability of the findings.  This remains true even when dealing with historical archives and other content.  Who we are matters when asking questions about how people experience the world because we, too, are a part of that world.

The science and practice of right conduct; in research, it is also the delineation of moral obligations towards research participants, communities to which we belong, and communities in which we conduct our research.

An administrative body established to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects recruited to participate in research activities conducted under the auspices of the institution with which it is affiliated. The IRB is charged with the responsibility of reviewing all research involving human participants. The IRB is concerned with protecting the welfare, rights, and privacy of human subjects. The IRB has the authority to approve, disapprove, monitor, and require modifications in all research activities that fall within its jurisdiction as specified by both the federal regulations and institutional policy.

Research, according to US federal guidelines, that involves “a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research:  (1) Obtains information or biospecimens through intervention or interaction with the individual, and uses, studies, or analyzes the information or biospecimens; or  (2) Obtains, uses, studies, analyzes, or generates identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens.”

One of the primary methodological traditions of inquiry in qualitative research, ethnography is the study of a group or group culture, largely through observational fieldwork supplemented by interviews. It is a form of fieldwork that may include participant-observation data collection. See chapter 14 for a discussion of deep ethnography. 

A form of interview that follows a standard guide of questions asked, although the order of the questions may change to match the particular needs of each individual interview subject, and probing “follow-up” questions are often added during the course of the interview.  The semi-structured interview is the primary form of interviewing used by qualitative researchers in the social sciences.  It is sometimes referred to as an “in-depth” interview.  See also interview and  interview guide .

A method of observational data collection taking place in a natural setting; a form of fieldwork .  The term encompasses a continuum of relative participation by the researcher (from full participant to “fly-on-the-wall” observer).  This is also sometimes referred to as ethnography , although the latter is characterized by a greater focus on the culture under observation.

A research design that employs both quantitative and qualitative methods, as in the case of a survey supplemented by interviews.

An epistemological perspective that posits the existence of reality through sensory experience similar to empiricism but goes further in denying any non-sensory basis of thought or consciousness.  In the social sciences, the term has roots in the proto-sociologist August Comte, who believed he could discern “laws” of society similar to the laws of natural science (e.g., gravity).  The term has come to mean the kinds of measurable and verifiable science conducted by quantitative researchers and is thus used pejoratively by some qualitative researchers interested in interpretation, consciousness, and human understanding.  Calling someone a “positivist” is often intended as an insult.  See also empiricism and objectivism.

A place or collection containing records, documents, or other materials of historical interest; most universities have an archive of material related to the university’s history, as well as other “special collections” that may be of interest to members of the community.

A method of both data collection and data analysis in which a given content (textual, visual, graphic) is examined systematically and rigorously to identify meanings, themes, patterns and assumptions.  Qualitative content analysis (QCA) is concerned with gathering and interpreting an existing body of material.    

A word or short phrase that symbolically assigns a summative, salient, essence-capturing, and/or evocative attribute for a portion of language-based or visual data (Saldaña 2021:5).

Usually a verbatim written record of an interview or focus group discussion.

The primary form of data for fieldwork , participant observation , and ethnography .  These notes, taken by the researcher either during the course of fieldwork or at day’s end, should include as many details as possible on what was observed and what was said.  They should include clear identifiers of date, time, setting, and names (or identifying characteristics) of participants.

The process of labeling and organizing qualitative data to identify different themes and the relationships between them; a way of simplifying data to allow better management and retrieval of key themes and illustrative passages.  See coding frame and  codebook.

A methodological tradition of inquiry and approach to analyzing qualitative data in which theories emerge from a rigorous and systematic process of induction.  This approach was pioneered by the sociologists Glaser and Strauss (1967).  The elements of theory generated from comparative analysis of data are, first, conceptual categories and their properties and, second, hypotheses or generalized relations among the categories and their properties – “The constant comparing of many groups draws the [researcher’s] attention to their many similarities and differences.  Considering these leads [the researcher] to generate abstract categories and their properties, which, since they emerge from the data, will clearly be important to a theory explaining the kind of behavior under observation.” (36).

A detailed description of any proposed research that involves human subjects for review by IRB.  The protocol serves as the recipe for the conduct of the research activity.  It includes the scientific rationale to justify the conduct of the study, the information necessary to conduct the study, the plan for managing and analyzing the data, and a discussion of the research ethical issues relevant to the research.  Protocols for qualitative research often include interview guides, all documents related to recruitment, informed consent forms, very clear guidelines on the safekeeping of materials collected, and plans for de-identifying transcripts or other data that include personal identifying information.

Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods Copyright © 2023 by Allison Hurst is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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1. Introduction to Research

“Research is creating new knowledge”– Neil Armstrong

In this chapter you will learn about:

  • what it means to do research
  • ways of knowing and world views
  • the scientific method and how it contributes to evidence
  • where research questions come from and how do they evolve
  • reasons for doing research in healthcare settings.

Opening Scenario

Imagine that you are a third-year medical student living on campus and relying solely on the cafeteria for your meals as you do not know how to cook. An excellent opportunity to develop basic culinary skills presents itself; you enrolled in the ‘cooking basics for dummies’ class for your third-year elective subject. For your final assessment, you are required to put on your creative thinking cap, research how to make sushi on the internet and, within an allocated time of one hour, make a special type of sushi. You decide to take on the challenge by changing the filling you used in your sushi from popular choices such as salmon or chicken to kangaroo meat to give the meal an ‘Australian touch’. You did such a good job of it that you got the highest grade (high distinction) in the class. While sushi is a known and existing meal, you have added more to the knowledge base by creating a new sushi recipe. Similarly, research involves creating new ideas and knowledge. No wonder Neil Armstrong stated that “ Research is creating new knowledge” .

Let’s now take you into the world of research where you need to creatively develop and apply processes (recipes) that produce new knowledge about phenomena under investigation.

An Introduction to Research Methods for Undergraduate Health Profession Students Copyright © 2023 by Faith Alele and Bunmi Malau-Aduli is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Defining components of the research process needed to conduct and critique studies

  • PMID: 2046040

The research process consists of a five-chapter approach. Chapters one through three are written during the planning stages of a study. Chapter one consists of problem, purpose, hypotheses or research questions, definitions, theoretical framework, and significance for nursing. Chapter two consists of the review of literature. Chapter three consists of the methodology: sample, setting, design, data analysis methods, and ethical concerns. Chapters four and five are written after the study is completed. Chapter four consists of results of data analysis. Chapter five consists of a discussion of results, conclusions, implications for nurses, and recommended future studies. It is important for nurses to review and apply this five-chapter approach when conducting or critiquing research studies.

  • Data Collection
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Nursing Research / methods*
  • Nursing Research / standards
  • Research Design

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1 Chapter 1: The Importance of Research Methods and Becoming an Informed Consumer of Research

Case study : student apprehension regarding research methods.

Research Study

Understanding and Measuring Student Apprehension in Criminal Justice Research Methods Courses 1

Research Question

How do we measure disinterest, relevance argumentation, and math anxiety experienced by students enrolled in research methods courses?


It is said that “misery loves company,” so you are not alone in your apprehension and anxiety regarding your research methods course. The problem of student apprehension and anxiety related to taking a research methods course is not new and has been studied for over 25 years. Previously, such apprehension and anxiety appeared to be caused by math anxiety, especially as it applies to statistics. The authors of this article believe that student apprehension goes beyond math anxiety; that math anxiety is too simplistic of an explanation of student fear of research methods courses. Besides math anxiety, the researchers think that apprehension is caused by student indifference to the subject matter and irrelevance of the course because it does not apply to the “real world.” They state that student apprehension in research methods and statistics courses is due to three main factors:

Disinterest (D.);

Relevance Argumentation (RA.), and;

Math Anxiety (MA.).

Taken together, the reconceptualization is known as D.RA.MA., and the combination of these three factors constitutes the D.RA.MA. scale for research methods and statistics courses.

The researchers developed the D.RA.MA. scale by constructing survey questions to measure each factor in the scale (i.e., disinterest, relevance argumentation, and math anxiety). After they developed the survey, they tested it by distributing the survey to three criminal justice classes, totaling 80 students, from a midsized regional comprehensive university in the southern region of the United States. Higher scale scores demonstrate more disinterest, more relevance argumentation, or more math anxiety.

The D.RA.MA. scale consists of 20 survey questions. Ten questions were borrowed from an existing Math Anxiety scale developed by Betz 2 . The researchers then created five items to assess Disinterest and five items intended to measure Relevance Argumentation. The items for the D.RA.MA. scale are illustrated below.

Math Anxiety 3

I usually have been at ease in math classes.

Math does not scare me at all.

I am no good at math.

I don’t think that I could do advanced math.

Generally, I have been secure about attempting math.

For some reason, even though I study, math seems unusually hard for me.

Math has been my worst subject.

My mind goes blank and I am unable to think clearly when working in mathematics.

I think I could handle more difficult math.

I am not the type to do well in mathematics.

Relevance Argumentation 4

I will need research methods for my future work.

I view research methods as a subject that I will rarely use.

Research methods is not really useful for students who intend to work in Criminal Justice.

Knowing research methods will help me earn a living.

Research methods does not reflect the “real world.”

Research Disinterest 5

I am excited about taking research methods.

It would not bother me at all to take more research methods courses.

I expect a research methods class to be boring.

I don’t expect to learn much in research methods.

I really don’t care if I learn anything in research methods, as long as I get the requirement completed.

The Math Anxiety Scale responses for the 80 students ranged from 0 to 30 with a mean of 14, demonstrating a moderate level of math anxiety among the study participants. The responses for Relevance Argumentation ranged from 0 to 12 with a mean of 5.4 while those for Disinterest ranged from 1 to 15 with a mean of 7.0, demonstrating a moderate level of disinterest and relevance argumentation among students regarding research methods. Based on these findings, the study demonstrated that student apprehension regarding research methods courses goes beyond math anxiety and includes two additional factors; disinterest in the subject matter and irrelevance of research methods to the “real world.”

Limitations with the Study Procedure

This research study was designed to develop a broader measure of student apprehension in criminal justice research methods courses. Moving beyond just math anxiety, the researchers accomplished their objective by developing the D.RA.MA. scale; adding disinterest and relevance argumentation to the understanding of student apprehension regarding research methods. As is true for all research, this study is not without limitations. The biggest limitation of this study is the limited sample size. Only 80 students completed the survey. Although this is certainly a good start, similar research (i.e., replication) needs to be completed with larger student samples in different locations throughout the country before the actual quality of the D.RA.MA. scale can be determined.

Impact on Criminal Justice

The D.RA.MA. scale developed in this study identifies disinterest and relevance argumentation, in addition to math anxiety, as part of student apprehension and resistance to research methods. A variety of instructional strategies can be inferred from the D.RA.MA. survey. However, it is important for professors to recognize that no single approach will reduce research methods resistance and apprehension for all students. For example, discussing research methods in a popular culture framework may resonate with students and lead to engaged students who are more interested in the subject matter and identify with the relevance of research methods to criminal justice in general and the future careers of students, in particular. This approach may provide an effective means for combating student disinterest and relevance argumentation in criminal justice research methods courses. At a minimum, it is critical for professors to explain the relevance of research methods to the policies and practices of police, courts, and corrections. Students need to realize that research methods are essential tools for assessing agency policies and practices. Professors will always have D.RA.MA.-plagued students, but recognizing the problem and then developing effective strategies to connect with these students is the challenge all professors face. Experimenting with a multitude of teaching strategies to alleviate the math anxiety, relevance argumentation, and disinterest of criminal justice research methods students will result in more effective teaching and learning.

In This Chapter You Will Learn

What research is and why it is important to be an informed consumer of research

The sources of knowledge development and problems with each

How research methods can dispel myths about crime and the criminal justice system

The steps in the research process

How research has impacted criminal justice operations


As noted in the chapter opening case study, it is expected that you have some anxiety and apprehension about taking this criminal justice research methods course. But, you have taken a significant step toward success in this course by opening up your research methods book, so congratulations are in order. You might have opened this book for a number of reasons. Perhaps it is the first day of class and you are ready to get started on the course material. Perhaps you have a quiz or exam soon. Perhaps the book has been gathering dust on your shelf since the first day of class and you are not doing well in your research methods class and are looking for the book to help with course improvement. Perhaps you are taking a research methods class in the future and are seeing if all the chatter among students is true.

No matter how you got here, two things are probably true. First, you are taking this research methods course because it is a requirement for your major. The bottom line is that most of the students who read this text are required to take a research methods course. While you may think studying research methods is irrelevant to your career goals, unnecessary, overly academic, or perhaps even intimidating, you probably must finish this course in order to graduate. Second, you have heard negative comments about this course. The negative comments mention the difficulty of the course and the relevance of the course (e.g., “I am going to be a police officer, so why do I need to take a research methods course?”). If you are like most students we have experienced in our research methods courses in the past, you are not initially interested in this course and are concerned about whether you will do well in it.

If you are concerned about the course, realize that you are not alone because most students are anxious about taking a research methods course. Also realize that your professor is well aware of student anxiety and apprehension regarding research methods. So, relax and do not think about the entire course and the entire book. Take the course content one chapter, one week at a time. One of the advantages of taking a research methods course is that you learn about the process of research methods. Each chapter builds upon the previous chapters, illustrating and discussing more about the research process. This is certainly an advantage, but it is also critical that you understand the initial chapters in this book so you are not confused with the content discussed in later chapters. In addition to anxiety and apprehension over the course material, research methods can be boring if you only read and learn about it with no particular purpose in mind. Although examples are prevalent throughout the book, as you read this material, it is recommended that you think about the relevancy and application of the topics covered in this book to your specific criminal justice interests. As you continue to read the book, think about how you might use the information you are reading in your current position or your intended profession.

The goal of this research methods book is to develop you into an informed consumer of research. Most, if not all, of your fellow classmates will never conduct their own research studies. However, every one of you will be exposed to research findings in your professional and personal lives for the remainder of your lives. You are exposed to research findings in the media (e.g., television, newspapers, and online), in personal interaction with others (e.g., friends and family, doctors, and professors), as well as in class. You should challenge yourself for this semester to keep a journal and document exposure to research in your daily life outside of college whether through the nightly news, newspapers, magazine articles, Internet, personal conversations, or other means. At the end of the semester, you will be amazed at the amount of research you are exposed to in a short period of time. This book is focused on research exposure and assisting you to become an educated consumer of research by providing you the skills necessary to differentiate between good and not so good research. Why should you believe research findings if the study is faulty? Without being an educated consumer of research, you will not be able to differentiate between useful and not useful research. This book is designed to remedy this problem.

This book was written to make your first encounter with research methods relevant and successful while providing you the tools necessary to become an educated consumer of research. Therefore, this book is written with the assumption that students have not had a prior class on research methods. In addition, this book assumes that practical and evaluative knowledge of research methods is more useful than theoretical knowledge of the development of research methods and the relationship between theory and research. Since the focus of this book is on consumerism, not researcher training, practical and evaluative knowledge is more useful than theoretical knowledge.

It is also important to understand that the professors who design academic programs in criminal justice at the associate and bachelor level believe that an understanding of research methods is important for students. That is why, more than likely, this research methods course is a required course in your degree program. These professors understand that a solid understanding of research methods will enrich the qualifications of students for employment and performance in their criminal justice careers.

As previously stated, the basic goal of this book is to make students, as future and possibly even current practitioners in the criminal justice system, better informed and more capable consumers of the results of criminal justice research. This goal is based on the belief that an understanding of research methods allows criminal justice practitioners to be better able to make use of the results of research as it applies to their work-related duties. In fact, thousands of research questions are asked and answered each year in research involving criminal justice and criminological topics. In addition, thousands of articles are published, papers presented at conferences, and reports prepared that provide answers to these questions. The ability to understand research gives practitioners knowledge of the most current information in their respective fields and the ability to use this knowledge to improve the effectiveness of criminal justice agencies.

How Do We Know What We Know? Sources of Knowledge

The reality is the understanding of crime and criminal justice system operations by the public is frequently the product of misguided assumptions, distorted interpretations, outright myths, and hardened ideological positions. 6 This is a bold statement that basically contends that most people’s knowledge of crime and criminal justice is inaccurate. But, how do these inaccuracies occur? Most people have learned what they know about crime and criminal justice system operations through some other means besides scientific research results and findings. Some of that knowledge is based on personal experience and common sense. Much of it is based on the information and images supported by politicians, governmental agencies, and especially the media. This section will discuss the mechanisms used to understand crime and criminal justice operations by the public. It is important to note that although this section will focus on the failings of these knowledge sources, they each can be, and certainly are, accurate at times, and thus are valuable sources of knowledge.

Knowledge from Authority

We gain knowledge from parents, teachers, experts, and others who are in positions of authority in our lives. When we accept something as being correct and true just because someone in a position of authority says it is true, we are using what is referred to as authority knowledge as a means of knowing. Authorities often expend significant time and effort to learn something, and we can benefit from their experience and work.

However, relying on authority as a means of knowing has limitations. It is easy to overestimate the expertise of other people. A person’s expertise is typically limited to a few core areas of significant knowledge; a person is not an expert in all areas. More specifically, criminal justice professors are not experts on all topics related to criminal justice. One professor may be an expert on corrections but know little about policing. If this professor discusses topics in policing in which he is not an expert, we may still assume he is right when he may be wrong. Authority figures may speak on fields they know little about. They can be completely wrong but we may believe them because of their status as an expert. Furthermore, an expert in one area may try to use his authority in an unrelated area. Other times, we have no idea of how the experts arrived at their knowledge. We just know they are experts in the topic area.

As I am writing this, I recall an example of authority knowledge that was wrong during my police academy training in the late 1980s. My academy training was about four years after the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Tennessee v. Garner. 7 In this case, the Court limited the use of deadly force by police to defense of life situations and incidents where the suspect committed a violent offense. Prior to the decision, the police in several states could use deadly force on any fleeing suspect accused of a felony offense. One day, the academy class was practicing mock traffic stops. During one of my mock traffic stops, I received information that the vehicle I stopped was stolen. The driver and passenger exited the vehicle and fled on foot. I did not use deadly force (this was a training exercise so was not real) against the suspects and was chastised by my instructor who insisted that I should have shot the suspects as they were fleeing. Training instructors, just like professors, convey authority knowledge but, in this case, the instructor was wrong. I was not legally authorized to use deadly force in the traffic stop scenario despite the insistence of my instructor to the contrary.

Politicians are sometimes taken as a source of authority knowledge about the law, crime, and criminal justice issues. Since they enact laws that directly impact the operations of the criminal justice system, we may assume they are an authority on crime and criminal justice. More specifically, we may assume that politicians know best about how to reduce crime and increase the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. However, history is rife with laws that sounded good on paper but had no impact on crime. For example, there is little evidence that sex offender registration protects the public from sexual predators or acts as a deterrent to repeat sex offenders even though every state has a law requiring convicted sex offenders to register with local authorities. Perhaps politicians are not the criminal justice experts some perceive them to be.

History is also full of criminal justice authorities that we now see as being misinformed. For example, Cesare Lombroso is the father of the positivist school of criminology. He is most readily recognized for his idea that some individuals are born criminal. He stated that criminals have certain unique biological characteristics, including large protruding jaws, high foreheads, flattened noses, and asymmetrical faces, to name a few. 8 These characteristics were similar to those found in primitive humans. Therefore, Lombroso argued that some individuals were genetic “throwbacks” to a more primitive time and were less evolved than other people and thus, were more likely to be criminals. Lombroso’s research has been discredited because he failed to compare criminals with noncriminals. By studying only criminals, he found characteristics that were common to criminals. However, if Lombroso had studied a group of noncriminals, he would have discovered that these biological characteristics are just as prevalent among noncriminals. This example involves authority knowledge that is supported by research but the research methods used were flawed. The errors of Lombroso seem obvious now, but what do we know today through authority knowledge that is inaccurate or will be proven wrong in the future?

Knowledge from Tradition

In addition to authority knowledge, people often rely on tradition for knowledge. Tradition knowledge relies on the knowledge of the past. Individuals accept something as true because that is the way things have always been so it must be right. A good example of tradition knowledge is preventive/random patrol. Ever since vehicles were brought into the police patrol function, police administrators assumed that having patrol officers drive around randomly in the communities they serve, while they are not answering calls for service, would prevent crime. If you were a patrol officer in the early 1970s and asked your supervisor, “Why do I drive around randomly throughout my assigned area when I am not answering a call for service?” the answer would have been, “That is the way we have always done patrol and random patrol reduces crime through deterrence.” The Kansas City Preventive Patrol Experiment challenged the tradition knowledge that preventive/random patrol reduces crime. The results of the study made it clear that the traditional practice of preventive/random patrol had little to no impact on reducing crime. This allowed police departments to develop other patrol deployment strategies such as directed patrol and “hot spots” policing since preventive patrol was seen as ineffective. The development of effective patrol deployment strategies continues today.

Knowledge from Common Sense

We frequently rely on common sense knowledge for what we know about crime and the criminal justice system because it “just makes sense.” For example, it “just makes sense” that if we send juvenile delinquents on a field trip to prison where they will see first hand the prison environment as well as be yelled at by actual prisoners, they will refrain from future delinquency. That is exactly what the program Scared Straight, originally developed in the 1970s, is designed to do. Scared Straight programs are still in existence today and are even the premise for the television show Beyond Scared Straight on the A&E television network. As originally created, the program was designed to decrease juvenile delinquency by bringing at-risk and delinquent juveniles into prison where they would be “scared straight” by inmates serving life sentences. Participants in the program were talked to and yelled at by the inmates in an effort to scare them. It was believed that the fear felt by the participants would lead to a discontinuation of their delinquent behavior so that they would not end up in prison themselves. This sounds like a good idea. It makes sense, and the program was initially touted as a success due to anecdotal evidence based on a few delinquents who turned their lives around after participation in the program.

However, evaluations of the program and others like it showed that the program was in fact unsuccessful. In the initial evaluation of the Scared Straight program, Finckenauer used a classic experimental design (discussed in Chapter 5), to evaluate the original “Lifer’s Program” at Rahway State Prison in New Jersey where the program was initially developed. 13 Juveniles were randomly assigned to an experimental group that attended the Scared Straight program and a control group that did not participate in the program. Results of the evaluation were not positive. Post-test measures revealed that juveniles who were assigned to the experimental group and participated in the program were actually more seriously delinquent afterwards than those who did not participate in the program. Also using an experimental design with random assignment, Yarborough evaluated the “Juvenile Offenders Learn Truth” (JOLT) program at the State Prison of Southern Michigan at Jackson. 14 This program was similar to that of the “Lifer’s Program,” only with fewer obscenities used by inmates. Post-test measurements were taken at two intervals, three and six months after program completion. Again, results were not positive. Findings revealed no significant differences in delinquency between those juveniles who attended the program and those who did not. Other experiments conducted on Scared Straight- type programs further revealed their inability to deter juveniles from further delinquency. 15 Despite the common sense popularity of these programs, the evaluations showed that Scared Straight programs do not reduce delinquency and, in some instances, may actually increase delinquency. The programs may actually do more harm than good. I guess that begs the question, “Why do we still do these types of programs?”

Scared Straight programs and other widely held common sense beliefs about crime and the criminal justice system are questionable, based on the available research evidence. Common sense is important in our daily lives and is frequently correct, but, at times, it also contains inaccuracies, misinformation, and even prejudice.


Is It Safe to Put Felons on Probation?

Research Study 9

In the mid-1970s, the number of offenders on probation began to significantly increase. By the mid-1980s, probation was the most frequently used sentence in most states and its use was becoming more common for felons, whereas previously, probation was typically limited to misdemeanor crimes and offenses committed by juveniles. Increasing numbers of felony offenders were being placed on probation because judges had no other alternative forms of punishment. Prisons were already operating above capacity due to rising crime rates. Despite the increase in the use of probation in the 1980s, few empirical studies of probation (particularly its use with felony offenders) had been published. In the early 1980s, the Rand Corporation conducted an extensive study of probation to learn more about the offenders sentenced to probation and the effectiveness of probation as a criminal sanction. At the time the study began, over one-third of California’s probation population were convicted felons. 10 This was the first large-scale study of felony probation.

Is it safe to put felons on probation?

Data for the study were obtained from the California Board of Prison Terms (CBPT). The Board had been collecting comprehensive data on all offenders sentenced to prison since 1978 and on a sample of adult males from 17 counties who received probation. From these two data sources, researchers selected a sample of male offenders who had been convicted of the following crimes: robbery, assault, burglary, theft, forgery, and drug offenses. These crimes were selected because an offender could receive either prison or probation if convicted. Approximately 16,500 male felony offenders were included in the study. For each offender, researchers had access to their personal characteristics, information on their crimes, court proceedings, and disposition.

Two main research questions were answered in this study. First, what were the recidivism rates for felony offenders who received probation? When assessing recidivism rates, the study found that the majority of offenders sentenced to probation recidivated during the follow-up period, which averaged 31 months. Overall, 65% of the sample of probationers were re-arrested and 51 % were charged with and convicted of another offense. A total of 18% were convicted of a violent crime.

The second research question asked, what were the characteristics of the probationers who recidivated? Property offenders were more likely to recidivate compared to violent or drug offenders. Researchers also discovered that probationers tended to recidivate by committing the same crime that placed them on probation. Rand researchers included time to recidivism in their analysis and found that property and violent offenders recidivated sooner than drug offenders. The median time to the first filed charge was five months for property offenders and eight months for violent offenders.

The issue of whether or not the findings would generalize to other counties in California and to other states was raised. Data for the study came from probation and prison records from two counties in California. These two counties were not randomly selected, but were chosen because of their large probation populations and the willingness of departments to provide information. Further, the probation departments in these counties had experienced significant budget cuts. Supervision may have become compromised as a result and this could have explained why these counties had high rates of recidivism. Studies of probation recidivism in other states have found recidivism rates to be much lower, suggesting the Rand results may not have applied elsewhere. 11 Several studies examining the effectiveness of probation and the factors correlated with probation outcomes were published after 1985. Much of this research failed to produce results consistent with the Rand study.

The Rand study of felony probation received a considerable amount of attention within the field of corrections. According to one scholar, the study was acclaimed as “the most important criminological research to be reported since World War II.” 12 The National Institute of Justice disseminated the report to criminal justice agencies across the country and even highlighted the study in their monthly newsletter. Today, the study remains one of the most highly cited pieces of corrections research.

According to Rand researchers, these findings raised serious doubts about the effectiveness of probation for felony offenders. Most of the felons sentenced to probation recidivated and researchers were unable to develop an accurate prediction model to improve the courts’ decision-making. The continued use of probation as a sanction for felony offenders appeared to be putting the public at risk. However, without adequate prison space, the courts had no other alternatives besides probation when sentencing offenders.

The researchers made several recommendations to address the limitations of using probation for felony offenders. First, it was recommended that states formally acknowledge that the purpose of probation had changed. Probation was originally used as a means of furthering the goal of rehabilitation in the correctional system. As the United States moved away from that goal in the late 1960s, the expectations of probation changed. Probation was now used as a way to exercise “restrictive supervision” over more serious offenders. Second, probation departments needed to redefine the responsibilities of their probation officers. Probation officers were now expected to be surveillance officers instead of treatment personnel, which required specialized training. In addition, states needed to explore the possibility of broadening the legal authority of its probation officers by allowing them to act as law enforcement officers if necessary. Third, states were advised to adopt a formal client management system that included risk/need assessments of every client. Such a system would help establish uniform, consistent treatment of those on probation and would also help departments allocate their resources efficiently and effectively. Fourth, researchers encouraged states to develop alternative forms of community punishment that offered more public protection than regular probation, which led to the development and use of intensive supervision probation, house arrest, electronic monitoring, day reporting centers, and other intermediate punishments.

Knowledge from Personal Experience

If you personally see something or if it actually happens to you, then you are likely to accept it as true and gain knowledge from the experience. Gaining knowledge through actual experiences is known as personal experience knowledge, and it has a powerful and lasting impact on everyone. Personal experiences are essential building blocks of knowledge and of what we believe to be true. The problem with knowledge gained from personal experiences is that personal experiences can be unique and unreliable, which can distort reality and lead us to believe things that are actually false.

How can events that someone personally experienced be wrong? The events are not wrong. Instead, the knowledge gained from the experience is wrong. For example, the research consistently shows that a person’s demeanor significantly impacts the decision-making of police officers. During a traffic stop, if a person is rude, disrespectful, and uncooperative to the officer, then the driver is more likely to receive a traffic citation than a warning. That is what the research on police discretion shows. However, if a person was rude and uncooperative to a police officer during a traffic stop and was let go without a citation, the person will gain knowledge from this personal experience. The knowledge gained may include that being disrespectful during future traffic stops will get this person out of future tickets. Not likely. The event is not wrong. Instead, the knowledge gained from the experience is wrong because being disrespectful to the police usually leads to more enforcement action taken by the police, not less.

As a student in criminal justice, you have probably experienced something similar in interaction with friends, relatives, and neighbors. Your knowledge of criminal justice that you have developed in your criminal justice classes is trumped by one experience your friend, relative, or neighbor had with the criminal justice system. They believe they are right because they experienced it. However, there are four errors that occur in the knowledge gained from personal experiences: overgeneralization, selective observation, illogical reasoning, and resistance to change.

Overgeneralization happens when people conclude that what they have observed in one or a few cases is true for all cases. For example, you may see that a wealthy businesswomen in your community is acquitted of bribery and may conclude that “wealthy people, especially women, are never convicted in our criminal justice system,” which is an overgeneralization. It is common to draw conclusions about people and society from our personal interactions, but, in reality, our experiences are limited because we interact with just a small percentage of people in society.

The same is true for practitioners in the criminal justice system. Practitioners have a tendency to believe that because something was done a particular way in their agency, it is done that way in all agencies. That may not be true. Although there are certainly operational similarities across criminal justice agencies, there are also nuances that exist across the over 50,000 criminal justice agencies in the United States. Believing that just because it was that way in your agency, it must be that way in all agencies leads to overgeneralization.

Selective observation is choosing, either consciously or unconsciously, to pay attention to and remember events that support our personal preferences and beliefs. In fact, with selective observation, we will seek out evidence that confirms what we believe to be true and ignore the events that provide contradictory evidence. We are more likely to notice pieces of evidence that reinforce and support our ideology. As applied to the criminal justice system, when we are inclined to be critical of the criminal justice system, it is pretty easy to notice its every failing and ignore its successes. For example, if someone believes the police commonly use excessive force, the person is more likely to pay attention to and remember a police brutality allegation on the nightly news than a police pursuit that led to the apprehension of the suspect without incident on the same nightly news. As another example, if you believe treatment efforts on sex offenders are futile, you will pay attention to and remember each sex offender you hear about that recidivates but will pay little attention to any successes. It is easy to find instances that confirm our beliefs, but with selective observation, the complete picture is not being viewed. Therefore, if we only acknowledge the events that confirm our beliefs and ignore those that challenge them, we are falling victim to selective observation.

Besides selective observation, some of our observations may simply be wrong. Consider eyewitness identification. It is a common practice in the criminal justice system, but research has consistently demonstrated inaccuracies in eyewitness identification. The witness feels certain that the person viewed is the person who committed the offense, but sometimes the witness is wrong. Even when our senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell are fully operational, our minds have to interpret what we have sensed, which may lead to an inaccurate observation.


When Your Criminal Past Isn’t Yours 16

The business of background checks on prospective employees is increasing significantly. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, since the events of September 11, 2001, the percentage of companies that conduct criminal history checks during the hiring process has risen past 90%. Employers spend at least $2 billion a year to look into the pasts of their prospective employees. Problems with the business of background checks were identified through research that included a review of thousands of pages of court filings and interviews with dozens of court officials, data providers, lawyers, victims, and regulators.

The business of background checks is a system weakened by the conversion to digital files and compromised by the significant number of private companies that profit by amassing public records and selling them to employers. The private companies create a system in which a computer program scrapes the public files of court systems around the country to retrieve personal data. Basically, these are automated data-mining programs. Today, half the courts in the United States put criminal records on their public websites. So, the data are there for the taking, but the records that are retrieved typically are not checked for errors—errors that would be obvious to human eyes.

The errors can start with a mistake entered into the logs of a law enforcement agency or a court file. The biggest culprits, though, are companies that compile databases using public information. In some instances, their automated formulas misinterpret the information provided them. Other times, records wind up assigned to the wrong people with a common name. Furthermore, when a government agency erases a criminal conviction after a designated period of good behavior, many of the commercial databases don’t perform the updates required to purge offenses that have been removed from public record. It is clear that these errors can have substantial ramifications, including damaged reputations and loss of job opportunities.

Illogical reasoning occurs when someone jumps to premature conclusions or presents an argument that is based on invalid assumptions. Premature conclusions occur when we feel we have the answer based on a few pieces of evidence and do not need to seek additional information that may invalidate our conclusion. Think of a detective who, after examining only a few pieces of evidence, quickly narrows in on a murder suspect. It is common for a detective to assess the initial evidence and make an initial determination of who committed the murder. However, it is hoped that the detective will continue to sort through all the evidence for confirmation or rejection of his original conclusion regarding the murder suspect. Illogical reasoning by jumping to premature conclusions is common in everyday life. We look for evidence to confirm or reject our beliefs and stop when a small amount of evidence is present; we jump to conclusions. If a person states, “I know four people who have dropped out of high school, and each one of them ended up addicted to drugs, so all dropouts abuse drugs,” the person is jumping to conclusions.

Illogical reasoning also occurs when an argument, based on invalid assumptions, is presented. Let’s revisit the Scared Straight example previously discussed. Program developers assumed that brief exposure to the harsh realities of prison would deter juveniles from future delinquency. The Scared Straight program is an example of illogical reasoning. Four hours of exposure to prison life is not going to counteract years of delinquency and turn a delinquent into a nondelinquent. The program is based on a false assumption and fails to recognize the substantial risk factors present in the lives of most delinquents that must be mediated before the juvenile can live a crime-free lifestyle. A fear of prison, developed through brief exposure, is not enough to counteract the risk factors present in the lives of most delinquents. Although the Scared Straight program sounds good, it is illogical to assume that a brief experience with prison life will have a stronger impact on the decisions made by delinquents than peer support for delinquency, drug abuse, lack of education, poor parental supervision, and other factors that influence delinquency.

Resistance to change is the reluctance to change our beliefs in light of new, accurate, and valid information to the contrary. Resistance to change is common and it occurs for several reasons. First, even though our personal experience may be counter to our belief system, it is hard to admit we were wrong after we have taken a position on an issue. Even when the research evidence shows otherwise, people who work within programs may still believe they are effective. As previously stated, even though the research evidence shows otherwise, Scared Straight programs still exist and there is even a television show devoted to the program. Second, too much devotion to tradition and the argument that this is the way it has always been done inhibits change and hinders our ability to accept new directions and develop new knowledge. Third, uncritical agreement with authority inhibits change. Although authority knowledge is certainly an important means of gaining knowledge, we must critically evaluate the ideas, beliefs, and statements of those in positions of authority and be willing to challenge those statements where necessary. However, people often accept the beliefs of those in positions of authority without question, which hinders change.

Knowledge from Media Portrayals

Television shows, movies, websites, newspapers, and magazine articles are important sources of information. This is especially true for information about crime and the criminal justice system since most people have not had much contact with criminals or the criminal justice system. Instead of gaining knowledge about the criminal justice system through personal experience, most people learn about crime and the operations of the criminal justice system through media outlets. Since the primary goal of many of these media outlets is to entertain, they may not accurately reflect the reality of crime and criminal justice. Despite their inaccuracies, the media has a substantial impact on what people know about crime and the criminal justice system. Most people know what they know about crime and criminal justice through the media, and this knowledge even has an impact on criminal justice system operations.

An example of the potential impact of the media on the actual operations of the criminal justice system involves the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation television shows. The shows have been criticized for their unrealistic portrayal of the role of forensic science in solving criminal cases. Critics claim that CSI viewers accept what they see on the show as an accurate representation of how forensic science works. When summoned for jury duty, they bring with them unrealistic expectations of the forensic evidence they will see in trial. When the expected sophisticated forensic evidence is not presented in the real trial, the juror is more likely to vote to acquit the defendant. This phenomenon is known as the CSI Effect. Has the research shown that the CSI Effect exists and is impacting the criminal justice system? Most of the research shows that the CSI Effect does not exist and thus does not impact juror decision-making, but other research has shown that viewers of CSI have higher expectations related to evidence presented at trial. 17

There are several instances in which media attention on a particular topic created the idea that a major problem existed when it did not. An example is Halloween sadism. Halloween sadism is the practice of giving contaminated treats to children during trick or treating. 18 In 1985, Joel Best wrote an article entitled, “The Myth of the Halloween Sadist.” 19 His article reviewed press coverage of Halloween sadism in the leading papers in the three largest metropolitan areas ( New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Chicago Tribune ) from 1958–1984. Although the belief in Halloween sadism is widespread, Best found few reported incidents and few reports of children being injured by Halloween sadism. Follow-ups on these reported incidents led to the conclusion that most of these reports were hoaxes. Best concluded, “I have been unable to find a substantiated report of a child being killed or seriously injured by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick or treating.” 20 Since 1985, Best has kept his research up to date and has come to the same conclusion. Halloween sadism is an urban legend; it is a story that is told as true, even though there is little or no evidence that the events in the story ever occurred.

Dispelling Myths: The Power of Research Methods

In the prior section, sources of knowledge were discussed along with the limitations of each. A researcher (e.g., criminologist), ideally, takes no knowledge claim for granted, but instead relies on research methods to discover the truth. In the attempt to generate new knowledge, a researcher is skeptical of knowledge that is generated by the sources discussed in the prior section, and this skepticism leads to the questioning of conventional thinking. Through this process, existing knowledge claims are discredited, modified, or substantiated. Research methods provide the researcher with the tools necessary to test current knowledge and discover new knowledge.

Although knowledge developed through research methods is by no means perfect and infallible, it is definitely a more systematic, structured, precise, and evidence-based process than the knowledge sources previously discussed. However, researchers should not dismiss all knowledge from the prior sources discussed, because, as mentioned, these sources of knowledge are sometimes accurate and certainly have their place in the development of knowledge. Researchers should guard against an elitist mind-set in which all knowledge, unless it is research-based knowledge, is dismissed.

To further discuss the importance of research methods in the development of knowledge, this section will discuss myths about crime and criminal justice. Myths are beliefs that are based on emotion rather than rigorous analysis. Take the myth of the Halloween sadist previously discussed. Many believe that there are real examples of children being harmed by razor blades, poison, or other nefarious objects placed in Halloween candy. This belief has changed the practices of many parents on Halloween; not allowing their children to trick-or-treat in their neighborhood and forbidding them from going to the doors of strangers. After careful analysis by Best, there is not a single, known example of children being seriously injured or killed by contaminated candy given by strangers. The Halloween sadist is a myth but it is still perpetuated today, and as the definition states, it is a belief based upon emotion rather than rigorous analysis. People accept myths as accurate knowledge of reality when, in fact, the knowledge is false.

The power of research is the ability to dispel myths. If someone were to assess the research literature on a myth or do their own research, she would find that the knowledge based on the myth is wrong. Perceived reality is contradicted by the facts developed through research. But that does not mean that the myth still doesn’t exist. It is important to keep in mind that the perpetuation and acceptance of myths by the public, politicians, and criminal justice personnel has contributed to the failure of criminal justice practices and policies designed to reduce crime and improve the operations of the criminal justice system. In this section, a detailed example of a myth about crime, police, courts, and corrections will be presented to demonstrate how the myth has been dispelled through research. In addition, several additional myths about crime, police, courts, and corrections will be briefly presented.

The Health Benefits of Alcohol Consumption 21

The press release from Oregon State University is titled “Beer Compound Shows Potent Promise in Prostate Cancer Battle.” The press release leads to several newspaper articles throughout the country written on the preventative nature of drinking beer on prostate cancer development with titles such as “Beer Protects Your Prostate” and “Beer May Help Men Ward Off Prostate Cancer.” By the titles alone, this sounds great; one of the main ingredients in beer appears to thwart prostate cancer.

The study that generated these headlines was conducted by a group of researchers at Oregon State University using cultured cells with purified compounds in a laboratory setting. The research showed that xanthohumol, a compound found in hops, slowed the growth of prostate cancer cells and also the growth of cells that cause enlarged prostates. But you would have to drink more than 17 pints of beer to consume a medically effective dose of xanthohumol, which is almost a case of beer. In addition, although the research is promising, further study is necessary to determine xanthohumol’s true impact on prostate cancer.

These are the types of headlines that people pay attention to and want to believe as true, even if disproven by later research. People want to believe that there are health benefits to alcohol consumption. You have probably heard about the health benefits of drinking red wine, but here is something you should consider. Recently, the University of Connecticut released a statement describing an extensive research misconduct investigation involving a member of its faculty. The investigation was sparked by an anonymous allegation of research irregularities. The comprehensive report of the investigation, which totals approximately 60,000 pages, concludes that the professor is guilty of 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data. The professor had gained international notoriety for his research into the beneficial properties of resveratrol, which is found in red wine, especially its impact on aging. Obviously, this throws his research conclusions, that red wine has a beneficial impact on the aging process, into question.

Myths about Crime—Drug Users Are Violent

The myth of drug users as violent offenders continues to be perpetuated by media accounts of violent drug users. The public sees drug users as violent offenders who commit violent crimes to get money for drugs or who commit violent crimes while under the intoxicating properties of drugs. The public also recognizes the violent nature of the drug business with gangs and cartels using violence to protect their turf. In May 2012, extensive media attention was given to the case of the Miami man who ate the face of a homeless man for an agonizing 18 minutes until police shot and killed the suspect. The police believed that the suspect was high on the street drug known as “bath salts.” This horrific case definitely leaves the image in the public’s mind about the relationship between violence and drug use.

In recent years, media reports have focused on the relationship between methamphetamine use and violence; before then it was crack cocaine use and violence. 32 However, media portrayals regarding the violent tendencies of drug users date back to the 1930s and the release of Reefer Madness. In 1985, Goldstein suggested that drugs and violence could be related in three different ways:

1. violence could be the direct result of drug ingestion;

2. violence could be a product of the instability of drug market activity; and

3. violence could be the consequence of people having a compulsive need for drugs or money for drugs. 33

So, what does the research show? Studies have found that homicides related to crack cocaine were usually the product of the instability of drug market activity (i.e., buying and selling drugs can be a violent activity) and rarely the result of drug ingestion. 34 After an extensive review of research studies on alcohol, drugs, and violence, Parker and Auerhahn concluded, “Despite a number of published statements to the contrary, we find no significant evidence suggesting that drug use is associated with violence. There is substantial evidence to suggest that alcohol use is significantly associated with violence of all kinds.” 35 The reality is not everyone who uses drugs becomes violent and users who do become violent do not do so every time they use drugs; therefore, the relationship between violence and drug use is a myth.


Some additional myths about crime that research does not support include:

•Crime statistics accurately show what crimes are being committed and what crimes are most harmful. 22

•Most criminals—especially the dangerous ones—are mentally ill. 23

•White-collar crime is only about financial loss and does not hurt anyone. 24

•Serial murderers are middle-aged, white males. 25

•Criminals are significantly different from noncriminals. 26

•People are more likely to be a victim of violent crime committed by a stranger than by someone they know. 27

•Older adults are more likely to be victimized than people in any other age group. 28

•Sex offender registration protects the public from sexual predators. 29

•Juvenile crime rates are significantly increasing. 30

•Only the most violent juveniles are tried as adults. 31

Myths about Police—Female Police Officers Do Not Perform as Well as Males

Female police officers still face the myth that they cannot perform as well as male police officers. Throughout history, females have faced significant difficulties even becoming police officers. In the past, it was common for police agencies to require all police applicants to meet a minimum height requirement to be considered for employment. The minimum height requirement was 5′8″ for most agencies, which limited the ability of females to successfully meet the minimum standards to become a police officer. Even if women could meet the minimum height requirements, they were typically faced with a physical-abilities test that emphasized upper body strength (e.g., push-ups and bench presses). Women failed these tests more often than men, and thus were not eligible to be police officers. Minimum height requirements are no longer used in law enforcement, but the perception that female police officers are not as good as males still exists. Today, the myth that women cannot be effective police officers is based largely on the belief that the need to demonstrate superior physical strength is a daily, common occurrence in law enforcement along with the belief that police work is routinely dangerous, violent, and crime-related.

So, what does the research show? On occasion, it is useful for police officers to be able to overpower suspects by demonstrating superior physical strength, but those types of activities are rare in law enforcement. In addition, it is fairly rare for a police officer to have to deal with a dangerous and violent encounter or even an incident involving a crime. The Police Services Study conducted in the 1970s analyzed 26,418 calls for service in three metropolitan areas and found that only 19% of calls for service involve crime and only 2% of the total calls for service involve violent crime. 43 This research study was among the first to assess the types of calls for service received by police agencies.

Despite the belief that women do not make good police officers, consistent research findings show that women are extremely capable as police officers, and in some respects, outperform their male counterparts. 44 Research has demonstrated several advantages to the hiring, retention, and promotion of women in law enforcement. First, female officers are as competent as their male counterparts. Research does not show any consistent differences in how male and female patrol officers perform their duties. Second, female officers are less likely to use excessive force. Research has shown that female patrol officers are less likely to be involved in high-speed pursuits, incidents of deadly force, and the use of excessive force. Female officers are more capable at calming potentially violent situations through communication and also demonstrate heightened levels of caution. Third, female officers can help implement community-oriented policing. Studies have shown that female officers are more supportive of the community-policing philosophy than are their male counterparts. Fourth, female officers can improve law enforcement’s response to violence against women. Studies have shown that female officers are more patient and understanding in handling domestic violence calls, and female victims of domestic violence are more likely to provide positive evaluations of female officers than their male counterparts. 52


Some additional myths about the police that research does not support include:

•Police target minorities for traffic stops and arrests. 36

•Most crimes are solved through forensic science. 37

•COMPSTAT reduces crime. 38

•Intensive law enforcement efforts at the street level will lead to the control of illicit drug use and abuse. 39

•Police work primarily entails responding to crimes in progress or crimes that have just occurred. 40

•Police presence reduces crime. 41

•Detectives are most responsible for solving crimes and arresting offenders. 42

Myths about Courts—The Death Penalty Is Administered Fairly

According to a recent Gallup poll, 52% of Americans say the death penalty is applied fairly in the United States, the lowest mark in almost 40 years. 53 The issue of fairness and the death penalty typically concerns whether the punishment is equally imposed on offenders who are equally deserving based on legal factors (i.e., similar offense, similar prior criminal history, similar aggravating circumstances, and similar mitigating circumstances). 54 Unfairness can be shown if similarly situated offenders are more or less likely to receive death sentences based on age, gender, and race.

So, what does the research show? First, has research shown that a defendant’s age influences his or her chances of being sentenced to death? A study of about 5,000 homicides, controlling for legally relevant variables, found that defendants over the age of 25 were more than twice as likely to receive the death penalty in comparison to those 25 years of age or younger. 55

Second, has research shown that a defendant’s gender influences his or her chance of being sentenced to death? Capital punishment is almost exclusively reserved for male defendants. On December 31, 2010, there were 3,158 prisoners under a sentence of death in the United States: 58 were women, or 1.8%. 56 However, women account for 10–12% of all murders in the United States. 57 One research study found that male defendants were 2.6 times more likely than females to receive a death sentence after controlling for legally relevant factors. 58

Third, has research shown that a defendant’s race influences his or her chance of being sentenced to death? Most of the research on the biased nature of the death penalty has focused on racial inequities in the sentence. Although some research has shown that a defendant’s race has an impact on the likelihood of receiving a death sentence, a significant amount of research has shown that the race of the victim has the most substantial impact on death sentences. The research evidence clearly shows that offenders who murder white victims are more likely to receive a death sentence than offenders who murder black victims. 59 When assessing the race of both the victim and offender, the composition most likely to receive the death penalty is when a black offender murders a white victim. 60


Some additional myths about courts that research does not support include:

•Many criminals escape justice because of the exclusionary rule. 45

•Subjecting juvenile offenders to harsh punishments can reduce crime committed by juveniles. 46

•Public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of imprisonment and harsh punishment for offenders. 47

•The death penalty brings closure and a sense of justice to the family and friends of murder victims. 48

•Insanity is a common verdict in criminal courts in the United States. 49

•Eyewitness identification is reliable evidence. 50

•Most people who commit crimes based on hatred, bias, or discrimination face hate crime charges and longer sentencing. 51

Myths about Corrections—Imprisonment Is the Most Severe Form of Punishment

It seems clear that besides the death penalty, the most severe punishment available in our criminal justice system is to lock up offenders in prison. On a continuum, it is perceived that sentence severity increases as one moves from fines, to probation, to intermediate sanctions such as boot camps, and finally, to incarceration in prison. The public and politicians support this perception as well.

So, what does the research show? What do criminals think is the most severe form of punishment? A growing body of research has assessed how convicted offenders perceive and experience the severity of sentences in our criminal justice system. 61 Research suggests that alternatives to incarceration in prison (i.e., probation and intermediate sanctions) are perceived by many offenders as more severe due to a greater risk of program failure (e.g., probation revocation). In comparison, serving prison time is easier. 62  

For example, one study found that about one-third of nonviolent offenders given the option of participating in an Intensive Supervision Probation (ISP) program, chose prison instead because the prospects of working every day and submitting to random drug tests was more punitive than serving time in prison. 73 Prisoners also stated that they would likely be caught violating probation conditions (i.e., high risk of program failure) and be sent to prison anyway. 74 In another research study involving survey responses from 415 inmates serving a brief prison sentence for a nonviolent crime, prison was considered the eighth most severe sanction, with only community service and probation seen as less punitive. Electronic monitoring (seventh), intensive supervision probation (sixth), halfway house (fifth), intermittent incarceration (fourth), day reporting (third), county jail (second), and boot camp (first) were all rated by inmates as more severe sanctions than prison. 75


Some additional myths about corrections that research does not support include:

•Punishing criminals reduces crime. 63

•Prisons are too lenient in their day-to-day operations (prisons as country clubs). 64

•Prisons can be self-supporting if only prisoners were forced to work. 65

•Private prisons are more cost effective than state-run prisons. 66

•Focus of community corrections is rehabilitation rather than punishment. 67

•Correctional rehabilitation does not work. 68

•Drug offenders are treated leniently by the criminal justice system. 69

•Most death row inmates will be executed eventually. 70

•If correctional sanctions are severe enough, people will think twice about committing crimes. 71

•Sexual violence against and exploitation of inmates of the same gender are primarily the result of lack of heterosexual opportunities. 72

What is Research and Why is It Important to be an Informed Consumer of Research?

We probably should have started the chapter with the question “What is research?” but we wanted to initially lay a foundation for the question with a discussion of the problems with how knowledge is developed and the power of research in discovering the truth. Research methods are tools that allow criminology and criminal justice researchers to systematically study crime and the criminal justice system. The study of research methods is the study of the basic rules, appropriate techniques, and relevant procedures for conducting research. Research methods provide the tools necessary to approach issues in criminal justice from a rigorous standpoint and challenge opinions based solely on nonscientific observations and experiences. Similarly, research is the scientific investigation of an issue, problem, or subject utilizing research methods. Research is a means of knowledge development that is designed to assist in discovering answers to research questions and leads to the creation of new questions.

How Is Knowledge Development through Research Different?

Previously, sources of knowledge development were discussed, including authority, tradition, common sense, personal experience, and media portrayals. The problems generated by each knowledge source were also discussed. Research is another source of knowledge development, but it is different than those previously discussed in several ways. First, research relies on logical and systematic methods and observations to answer questions. Researchers use systematic, well-established research practices to seek answers to their questions. The methods and observations are completed in such a way that others can inspect and assess the methods and observations and offer feedback and criticism. Researchers develop, refine, and report their understanding of crime and the criminal justice system more systematically than the public does through casual observation. Those who conduct scientific research employ much more rigorous methods to gather the information/knowledge they are seeking.

Second, in order to prove that a research finding is correct, a researcher must be able to replicate the finding using the same methods. Only through replication can we have confidence in our original finding. For researchers, it may be important to replicate findings many times over so that we are assured our original finding was not a coincidence or chance occurrence. The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment is an example of this and will be discussed in detail in Chapter 5. In the experiment, the researchers found that arrests for domestic violence lead to fewer repeat incidences in comparison to separation of the people involved and mediation. Five replication studies were conducted and none were able to replicate the findings in the Minneapolis study. In fact, three of the replications found that those arrested for domestic violence had higher levels of continued domestic violence, so arrest did not have the deterrent effect found in the Minneapolis study.

Third, research is objective. Objectivity indicates a neutral and nonbiased perspective when conducting research. Although there are examples to the contrary, the researcher should not have a vested interest in what findings are discovered from the research. The researcher is expected to remain objective and report the findings of the study regardless of whether the findings support their personal opinion or agenda. In addition, research ensures objectivity by allowing others to examine and be critical of the methodology, findings, and results of research studies.

It should be clear that using research methods to answer questions about crime and the criminal justice system will greatly reduce the errors in the development of knowledge previously discussed. For example, research methods reduces the likelihood of overgeneralization by using systematic procedures for selecting individuals or groups to study that are representative of the individuals or groups that we wish to generalize. This is the topic of Chapter 3, which covers sampling procedures. In addition, research methods reduces the risk of selective observation by requiring that we measure and observe our research subjects systematically.

Being an Informed Consumer of Research

Criminal justice and criminological research is important for several reasons. First, it can provide better and more objective information. Second, it can promote better decision-making. Today, more than ever, we live in a world driven by data and in which there is an increasing dependence on the assessment of data when making decisions. As well as possible, research ensures that our decisions are based on data and not on an arbitrary or personal basis. Third, it allows for the objective assessment of programs. Fourth, it has often been the source of innovation within criminal justice agencies. Fifth, it can be directly relevant to criminal justice practice and have a significant impact on criminal justice operations.

Before we apply research results to practices in the criminal justice system, and before we even accept those research results as reasonable, we need to be able to know whether or not they are worthwhile. In other words, should we believe the results of the study? Research has its own limitations, so we need to evaluate research results and the methods used to produce them, and we do so through critical evaluation. Critical evaluation involves identifying both positive and negative aspects of the research study—both the good and the bad. Critical evaluation involves comparing the methodology used in the research with the standards established in research methods.

Through critical evaluation, consumers of research break studies down into their essential elements. What are the research questions and hypotheses? What were the independent and dependent variables? What research design was used? Was probability sampling used? What data-gathering procedures were employed? What type of data analysis was conducted and what conclusions were made? These are some of the questions that are asked by informed consumers of research. The evaluation of research ranges from the manner in which one obtains an idea to the ways in which one writes about the research results, and understanding each step in the research process is useful in our attempts to consume research conducted by others. Located between these two activities are issues concerning ethics, sampling, research design, data analyses, and interpretations.

The research design and procedures are typically the most critically evaluated aspects of research and will likewise receive the greatest amount of attention in this text. Informed consumers of research don’t just take the results of a research study at face value because the study is in an academic journal or written by someone with a Ph.D. Instead, informed consumers critically evaluate research. Taking what is learned throughout this text, critical evaluation of research is covered in Chapter 8, and upon completing this text, it is hoped that you will be an informed consumer of research and will put your research knowledge to use throughout your career.

Although many students will never undertake their own research, all will be governed by policies based upon research and exposed to research findings in their chosen professional positions. Most government agencies, including the criminal justice system, as well as private industry, routinely rely on data analysis. Criminal justice students employed with these agencies will be challenged if not prepared for quantitative tasks. Unfortunately, it is not unusual to find students as well as professionals in criminal justice who are unable to fully understand research reports and journal articles in their own field.

Beyond our criminal justice careers, we are all exposed to and use research to help us understand issues and to make personal decisions. For example, we know that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer and has other significant health impacts, so we don’t smoke. Your doctor tells you that your cholesterol is too high and you need to limit your red meat intake because research shows that consumption of red meat raises cholesterol; so, you quit eating red meat. That is why not all the examples in this text are criminal justice research examples. Some come from the medical field while others come from psychology and other disciplines. This is to remind you that you are probably exposed to much more research than you thought on day one of this class.

Overall, knowledge of research methods will allow you to more appropriately consider and consume information that is important to your career in criminal justice. It will help you better understand the process of asking and answering a question systematically and be a better consumer of the kind of information that you really need to be the best criminal justice professional you can. Once familiar with research methods, your anxiety about reviewing technical reports and research findings can be minimized. As discussed in the next section, research methods involve a process and once you understand the process, you can apply your knowledge to any research study, even those in other disciplines.

The Research Process

One of the nice things about studying research methods is it is about learning a process. Research methods can be seen as a sequential process with the first step being followed by the second step, and so on. There are certainly times when the order of the steps may be modified, but researchers typically follow the same process for each research study they complete regardless of the research topic (as depicted in Figure 2.1 in Chapter 2). Very simply, a research problem or question is identified, and a methodology is selected, developed, and implemented to answer the research question. This sequential process is one of the advantages of understanding research methods, because once you understand the process, you can apply that process to any research question that interests you. In addition, research methods are the same across disciplines. So, sampling is the same in business as it is in health education and as it is in criminal justice. Certainly the use of a particular method will be more common in one discipline in comparison to another, but the protocol for implementing the method to complete the research study is the same. For example, field research (discussed in Chapter 6) is used much more frequently in anthropology than in criminal justice. However, the research protocol to implement field research is the same whether you are studying an indigenous Indian tribe in South America in anthropology or a group of heroin users in St. Louis in criminal justice.

Some authors have presented the research process as a wheel or circle, with no specific beginning or end. Typically, the research process begins with the selection of a research problem and the development of research questions or hypotheses (discussed further in Chapter 2). It is common for the results of previous research to generate new research questions and hypotheses for the researcher. This suggests that research is cyclical, a vibrant and continuous process. When a research study answers one question, the result is often the generation of additional questions, which plunges the researcher right back into the research process to complete additional research to answer these new questions.

In this section, a brief overview of the research process will be presented. The chapters that follow address various aspects of the research process, but it is critical that you keep in mind the overall research process as you read this book, which is why is it presented here. Although you will probably not be expected to conduct a research study on your own, it is important for an educated consumer of research to understand the steps in the research process. The steps are presented in chronological order and appear neatly ordered. In practice, the researcher can go back and forth between the steps in the research process.

Step 1: Select a Topic and Conduct a Literature Review

The first step in the research process is typically the identification of a problem or topic that the researcher is interested in studying. Research topics can arise from a wide variety of sources, including the findings of a current study, a question that a criminal justice agency needs to have answered, or the result of intellectual curiosity. Once the researcher has identified a particular problem or topic, the researcher assesses the current state of the literature related to the problem or topic. The researcher will often spend a considerable amount of time in determining what the existing literature has to say about the topic. Has the topic already been studied to the point that the questions in which the researcher is interested have been sufficiently answered? If so, can the researcher approach the subject from a previously unexamined perspective? Many times, research topics have been previously explored but not brought to completion. If this is the case, it is certainly reasonable to examine the topic again. It is even appropriate to replicate a previous study to determine whether the findings reported in the prior research continue to be true in different settings with different participants. This step in the research process is also discussed in Chapter 2.

Step 2: Develop a Research Question

After a topic has been identified and a comprehensive literature review has been completed on the topic, the next step is the development of a research question or questions. The research question marks the beginning of your research study and is critical to the remaining steps in the research process. The research question determines the research plan and methodology that will be employed in the study, the data that will be collected, and the data analysis that will be performed. Basically, the remaining steps in the process are completed in order to answer the research question or questions established in this step. The development of research questions is discussed in more detail in Chapter 2.

Step 3: Develop a Hypothesis

After the research questions have been established, the next step is the formulation of hypotheses, which are statements about the expected relationship between two variables. For example, a hypothesis may state that there is no relationship between heavy metal music preference and violent delinquency. The two variables stated in the hypothesis are music preference and violent delinquency. Hypothesis development is discussed in more detail in Chapter 2.

Step 4: Operationalize Concepts

Operationalization involves the process of giving the concepts in your study a working definition and determining how each concept in your study will be measured. For example, in Step 3, the variables were music preference and violent delinquency. The process of operationalization involves determining how music preference and violent delinquency will be measured. Operationalization is further discussed in Chapter 2.

Step 5: Develop the Research Plan and Methodology

The next step is to develop the methodology that will be employed to answer the research questions and test the hypotheses. The research methodology is the blueprint for the study, which outlines how the research is to be conducted. The research questions will determine the appropriate methodology for the study. The research design selected should be driven by the research questions asked. In other words, the research questions dictate the methods used to answer them. The methodology is basically a research plan on how the research questions will be answered and will detail:

1. What group, subjects, or population will be studied and selected? Sampling will be discussed in Chapter 3.

2 . What research design will be used to collect data to answer the research questions? Various research designs will be covered in Chapters 4–7.

You need to have familiarity with all research designs so that you can become an educated consumer of research. A survey cannot answer all research questions, so knowing a lot about surveys but not other research designs will not serve you well as you assess research studies. There are several common designs used in criminal justice and criminology research. Brief descriptions of several common research designs are presented below, but each is discussed in detail in later chapters.

Survey research is one of the most common research designs employed in criminal justice research. It obtains data directly from research participants by asking them questions and is often conducted through self-administered questionnaires and personal interviews. For example, a professor might have her students complete a survey during class to understand the relationship between drug use and self-esteem. Survey research is discussed in Chapter 4.

Experimental designs are used when researchers are interested in determining whether a program, policy, practice, or intervention is effective. For example, a researcher may use an experimental design to determine if boot camps are effective at reducing juvenile delinquency. Experimental design is discussed in Chapter 5.

Field research involves researchers studying individuals or groups of individuals in their natural environment. The researcher is observing closely or acting as part of the group under study and is able to describe in depth not only the subject’s behaviors, but also consider the motivations that drive those behaviors. For example, if a researcher wanted to learn more about gangs and their activities, he may “hang out” with a gang in order to observe their behavior. Field research is discussed in Chapter 6.

A case study is an in-depth analysis of one or a few illustrative cases. This design allows the story behind an individual, a particular offender, to be told and then information from cases studies can be extrapolated to a larger group. Often these studies require the review and analysis of documents such as police reports and court records and interviews with the offender and others. For example, a researcher may explore the life history of a serial killer to try and understand why the offender killed. Case studies are discussed in Chapter 6.

Secondary data analysis occurs when researchers obtain and reanalyze data that was originally collected for a different purpose. This can include reanalyzing data collected from a prior research study, using criminal justice agency records to answer a research question, or historical research. For example, a researcher using secondary data analysis may analyze inmate files from a nearby prison to understand the relationship between custody level assignment and disciplinary violations inside prison. Secondary data analysis is discussed in Chapter 7.

Content analysis requires the assessment of content contained in mass communication outlets such as newspapers, television, magazines, and the like. In this research design, documents, publications, or presentations are reviewed and analyzed. For example, a researcher utilizing content analysis might review true crime books involving murder to see how the characteristics of the offender and victim in the true crime books match reality as depicted in the FBI’s Supplemental Homicide Reports. Content analysis is discussed in Chapter 7.

Despite the options these designs offer, other research designs are available and will be discussed later in the text. Ultimately, the design used will depend on the nature of the study and the research questions asked.

Step 6: Execute the Research Plan and Collect Data

The next step in the research process is the collection of the data based on the research design developed. For example, if a survey is developed to study the relationship between gang membership and violent delinquency, the distribution and collection of surveys from a group of high school students would occur in this step. Data collection is discussed in several chapters throughout this text.

Step 7: Analyze Data

After the data have been collected, the next phase in the research process involves analyzing the data through various and appropriate statistical techniques. The most common means for data analysis today is through the use of a computer and statistically oriented software. Data analysis and statistics are discussed in Chapter 9.

Step 8: Report Findings, Results, and Limitations

Reporting and interpreting the results of the study make up the final step in the research process. The findings and results of the study can be communicated through reports, journals, books, or computer presentations. At this step, the results are reported and the research questions are answered. In addition, an assessment is made regarding the support or lack of support for the hypotheses tested. It is also at this stage that the researcher can pose additional research questions that may now need to be answered as a result of the research study. In addition, the limitations of the study, as well as the impact those limitations may have on the results of the study, will be described by the researcher. All research has limitations, so it is incumbent on the researcher to identify those limitations for the reader. The process of assessing the quality of research will be discussed in Chapter 8.

Research in Action: Impacting Criminal Justice Operations

Research in the criminal justice system has had significant impacts on its operations. The following sections provide an example of research that has significantly impacted each of the three main components of the criminal justice system: police, courts, and corrections. The purpose of this section is to demonstrate that research has aided the positive development and progression of the criminal justice system.

Police Research Example 76

The efforts of criminal justice researchers in policing have been important and have created the initial and critical foundation necessary for the further development of effective and productive law enforcement. One seminal study asked: How important is it for the police to respond quickly when a citizen calls? The importance of rapid response was conveyed in a 1973 National Commission on Productivity Report despite the fact that there was very little empirical evidence upon which to base this assumption. In fact, the Commission stated “there is no definitive relationship between response time and deterrence, but professional judgment and logic do suggest that the two are related in a strong enough manner to make more rapid response important.” 77 Basically the Commission members were stating that we don’t have any research evidence that response times are important, but we “know” that they are. Police departments allocated substantial resources to the patrol function and deployed officers in an effort to improve response time through the use of the 9-1-1 telephone number, computer-assisted dispatch, and beat assignment systems. Officers were typically assigned to a patrol beat. When the officers were not answering calls for service, they remained in their assigned beats so they could immediately respond to an emergency.

The data for the project were collected as part of a larger experiment on preventive patrol carried out in Kansas City, Missouri, between October 1972 and September 1973. 78 To determine the impact of response time, researchers speculated that the following variables would be influenced by response time: 1) the outcome of the response, 2) citizen satisfaction with response time, and 3) citizen satisfaction with the responding officer. Several data sources were used in the study. First, surveys were completed after all citizen-initiated calls (excluding automobile accidents) that involved contact with a police officer. The survey instrument consisted of questions to assess the length of time to respond to a call and the outcome of the call (i.e., arrest). Over 1,100 surveys were completed. Second, a follow-up survey was mailed to citizens whom the police had contacted during their response. These surveys asked questions to assess citizen satisfaction with response time and outcome. Over 425 of these surveys were returned.

The data collected during the study showed that response time did not determine whether or not the police made an arrest or recovered stolen property. This was the most surprising finding from the study because it challenged one of the basic underlying principles of police patrol. Researchers attributed the lack of significance to the fact that most citizens waited before calling the police. Rapid response simply did not matter in situations where citizens delayed in reporting the crime.

Rapid response time was not only believed to be important in determining the outcome of a response (i.e., more likely to lead to an arrest), it was also considered an important predictor of citizen satisfaction. Data from the study showed that when the police arrived sooner than expected, citizens were more satisfied with response time. However, subsequent research has shown that citizens are also satisfied with a delayed response as long as the dispatcher sets a reasonable expectation for when the patrol officer will arrive. Response time was also the best predictor of how satisfied a citizen was with the responding officer. It was further revealed that citizens became dissatisfied with the police when they were not informed of the outcome (i.e., someone was arrested). Again, these findings indicate the need for dispatchers and patrol officers to communicate with complainants regarding when they should expect an officer to arrive and the outcome of the call.

Based on the results of the response time study, the researchers concluded that rapid response was not as important as police administrators had thought. Response time was not related to an officer’s ability to make an arrest or recover stolen property. Results from the response time study challenged traditional beliefs about the allocation of patrol in our communities. Based on tradition knowledge, as previously discussed, rapidly responding to calls for service is what the police had always done since they started using patrol vehicles. In addition, common sense, as previously discussed, played a role in the practice of rapid response to calls for service; it just made sense that if a patrol officer arrives sooner, she will be more likely to make an arrest.

Prior to the research, police departments operated under the assumption that rapid response was a crucial factor in the ability of an officer to solve a crime and an important predictor of citizen satisfaction. In response to the research on rapid response, many police departments changed the way they responded to calls for service. Many departments adopted a differential police response approach. Differential police response protocols allow police departments to prioritize calls and rapidly dispatch an officer only when an immediate response is needed (i.e., crimes in progress). For crimes in progress, rapid response is critical and may reduce the injuries sustained by the victim as well, but these emergency calls usually account for less than 2% of all 9-1-1 calls for police service. For nonemergency calls, an officer is either dispatched at a later time when the officer is available or a report is taken over the phone or through some other means. Differential police response has been shown to save departments money and give patrol officers more time to engage in community-oriented and proactive policing activities. The benefits for a department are not at the expense of the public. In fact, a study by Robert Worden found a high degree of citizen satisfaction with differential police response. 79

Courts Research Example 80

Research on the courts component of the criminal justice system, while far from complete, has produced direct effects on the operations of the criminal justice system. The study reviewed in this section asked the following research question: Are jurors able to understand different legal rules for establishing a defendant’s criminal responsibility? The study described below explored the issue of criminal responsibility as it applies to the insanity defense in the United States. For several years, the M ’ Naghten rule was the legal rule applied in all courts of the United States. Under M ’ Naghten, criminal responsibility was absent when the offender did not understand the nature of his actions due to failure to distinguish “right” from “wrong.” This is known as the “right/wrong test” for criminal responsibility. The case of Durham v. United States was heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and offered an alternative test for criminal responsibility and insanity. The legal rule emerging from Durham was that criminal responsibility was absent if the offense was a product of mental disease or defect. This ruling provided psychiatrists with a more important role at trial because of the requirement that the behavior be linked to a mental disorder that only a psychiatrist could officially determine.

At the time of Simon’s 1967 study, most courts across the country still followed the M ’ Naghten rule. Questions arose, however, regarding whether juries differed in their understanding of M ’ Naghten versus Durham and, in turn, whether this resulted in differences in their ability to make informed decisions regarding criminal responsibility in cases involving the insanity defense. The study was designed to determine the effect of different legal rules on jurors’ decision-making in cases where the defense was insanity. There was a question of whether there was a difference between the rules to the extent that jurors understood each rule and could capably apply it.

Simon conducted an experimental study on jury deliberations in cases where the only defense was insanity. 81 Utilizing a mock jury approach, Simon took the transcripts of two actual trials with one reflecting the use of the M ’ Naghten rule and the other the Durham rule. Both cases were renamed and the transcripts were edited to constitute a trial of 60–90 minutes in length. These edited transcripts were then recorded, with University of Chicago Law School faculty as the attorneys, judges, and witnesses involved in each case. Groups of 12 jurors listened to each trial with instruction provided at the end regarding the particular rule of law ( M ’ Naghten or Durham) for determining criminal responsibility. Each juror submitted a written statement with his or her initial decision on the case before jury deliberations, and the juries’ final decisions after deliberation were also reported.

Simon found significant differences in the verdicts across the two groups ( M ’ Naghten rule applied and Durham rule applied) even when the case was the same. For the M ’ Naghten version of the case, the psychiatrists stated that the defendant was mentally ill yet knew right from wrong during the crime. These statements/instructions should have led to a guilty verdict on the part of the mock jury. As expected, the M ’ Naghten juries delivered guilty verdicts in 19 of the 20 trials, with one hung jury. For the Durham version of the case, the psychiatrists stated that the crime resulted from the defendant’s mental illness, which should have lead to acquittal. However, the defendant was acquitted in only five of the 26 Durham trials. Twenty-six groups of 12 jurors were exposed to the Durham version of the trial and the case was the same each time. Simon interpreted these results as suggesting that jurors were unambiguous in their interpretations and applications of M ’ Naghten (due to the consistency in guilty verdicts), but they were less clear on the elements of Durham and how to apply it (reflected by the mix of guilty, not guilty, and hung verdicts). 82

After Simon’s study, most states rejected the Durham test. Recall her finding that the Durham rule produced inconsistent verdicts. She interpreted this finding as Durham being no better than providing no guidance to jurors on how to decide the issue of insanity. The observation helped to fuel arguments against the use of Durham, which, in turn, contributed to its demise as a legal rule. Today, only New Hampshire uses a version of the Durham rule in insanity cases.


The Punishment Cost of Being Young, Black, and Male

Steffensmeier, Ulmer, and Kramer 83 hypothesized that African Americans overall were not likely to be treated more harshly than white defendants by the courts because it was only particular subgroups of minority defendants that fit with court actors’ stereotypes of “more dangerous” offenders. In particular, they argued that younger African American males not only fulfilled this stereotype more than any other age, race, and gender combination, they were also more likely to be perceived by judges as being able to handle incarceration better than other subgroups.

In order to test their hypotheses, the researchers examined sentencing data from Pennsylvania spanning four years (1989–1992). Almost 139,000 cases were examined. The sentences they examined included whether a convicted defendant was incarcerated in prison or jail, and the length of incarceration in prison or jail. The researchers found that offense severity and prior record were the most important predictors of whether a convicted defendant was incarcerated and the length of incarceration. The authors found that the highest likelihood of incarceration and the longest sentences for males were distributed to African Americans aged 18–29 years. Their analysis of females revealed that white females were much less likely than African American females to be incarcerated, regardless of the age group examined. Taken altogether, the analysis revealed that African American males aged 18–29 years maintained the highest odds of incarceration and the longest sentences relative to any other race, sex, and age group.

Overall, this research showed that judges focused primarily on legal factors (offense severity and prior record) when determining the sentences of convicted offenders. These are the factors we expect judges to consider when making sentencing decisions. However, the research also found that judges base their decisions in part on extralegal factors, particularly the interaction of a defendant’s age, race, and gender. This research expanded our knowledge beyond the impact of singular factors on sentencing to expose the interaction effects of several variables (race, gender, and age). Court personnel are aware of these interaction effects based on this study, and others that followed, as well as their personal experiences in the criminal justice system. Identification and recognition of inequities in our justice system (in this case that young, African American males are punished more severely in our justice system) is the first step in mitigating this inequity.

Corrections Research Example 84

Although the research in corrections is far from complete, it has contributed greatly to the development of innovative programs and the professional development of correctional personnel. The contributions of academic and policy-oriented research can be seen across the whole range of correctional functions from pretrial services through probation, institutional corrections, and parole.

Rehabilitation remained the goal of our correctional system until the early 1970s, when the efficacy of rehabilitation was questioned. Violent crime was on the rise, and many politicians placed the blame on the criminal justice system. Some believed the system was too lenient on offenders. Interest in researching the effectiveness of correctional treatment remained low until 1974 when an article written by Robert Martinson and published in Public Interest titled “What Works? Questions and Answers about Prison Reform” generated enormous political and public attention to the effectiveness of correctional treatment. 85

Over a six-month period, Martinson and his colleagues reviewed all of the existing literature on correctional treatment published in English from 1945 to 1967. Each of the articles was evaluated according to traditional standards of social science research. Only studies that utilized an experimental design, included a sufficient sample size, and could be replicated were selected for review. A total of 231 studies examining a variety of different types of treatment were chosen, including educational and vocational training, individual and group counseling, therapeutic milieus, medical treatment, differences in length and type of incarceration, and community corrections. All of the treatment studies included at least one measure of offender recidivism, such as whether or not offenders were rearrested or violated their parole. The recidivism measures were used to examine the success or failure of a program in terms of reducing crime.

After reviewing all 231 studies, Martinson reported that there was no consistent evidence that correctional treatment reduced recidivism. Specifically, he wrote, “with few and isolated exceptions, the rehabilitative efforts that have been reported so far have had no appreciable effect on recidivism.” 86 Martinson further indicated that the lack of empirical support for correctional treatment could be a consequence of poorly implemented programs. If the quality of the programs were improved, the results may have proved more favorable, but this conclusion was for the most part ignored by the media and policy-makers.

Martinson’s report became commonly referred to as “nothing works” and was subsequently used as the definitive study detailing the failures of rehabilitation. The article had implications beyond questioning whether or not specific types of correctional treatment reduced recidivism. The entire philosophy of rehabilitation was now in doubt because of Martinson’s conclusion that “our present strategies … cannot overcome, or even appreciably reduce, the powerful tendencies of offenders to continue in criminal behavior.” 87

Martinson’s article provided policy makers the evidence to justify spending cuts on rehabilitative programs. Furthermore, it allowed politicians to respond to growing concerns about crime with punitive, get-tough strategies. States began implementing strict mandatory sentences that resulted in more criminals being sent to prison and for longer periods of time. Over the next several years, Martinson’s article was used over and over to support abandoning efforts to treat offenders until rehabilitation became virtually nonexistent in our correctional system.

Chapter Summary

This chapter began with a discussion of sources of knowledge development and the problems with each. To depict the importance of research methods in knowledge development, myths about crime and the criminal justice system were reviewed along with research studies that have dispelled myths. As the introductory chapter in this text, this chapter also provided an overview of the steps in the research process from selecting a topic and conducting a literature review at the beginning of a research study to reporting findings, results, and limitations at the end of the study. Examples of actual research studies in the areas of police, courts, and corrections were also provided in this chapter to demonstrate the research process in action and to illustrate how research has significantly impacted practices within the criminal justice system. In addition, this chapter demonstrated the critical importance of becoming an informed consumer of research in both your personal and professional lives.

Critical Thinking Questions

1. What are the primary sources of knowledge development, and what are the problems with each?

2. How is knowledge developed through research methods different from other sources of knowledge?

3. What myths about crime and criminal justice have been dispelled through research? Give an example of a research study that dispelled a myth.

4. Why is it important to be an informed consumer of research?

5. What are the steps in the research process, and what activities occur at each step?

authority knowledge: Knowledge developed when we accept something as being correct and true just because someone in a position of authority says it is true

case study: An in-depth analysis of one or a few illustrative cases

common sense knowledge: Knowledge developed when the information “just makes sense”

content analysis: A method requiring the analyzing of content contained in mass communication outlets such as newspapers, television, magazines, and the like

CSI Effect: Due to the unrealistic portrayal of the role of forensic science in solving criminal cases in television shows, jurors are more likely to vote to acquit a defendant when the expected sophisticated forensic evidence is not presented

differential police response: Methods that allow police departments to prioritize calls and rapidly dispatch an officer only when an immediate response is needed (i.e., crimes in progress)

experimental designs: Used when researchers are interested in determining whether a program, policy, practice, or intervention is effective

field research: Research that involves researchers studying individuals or groups of individuals in their natural environment

Halloween sadism: The practice of giving contaminated treats to children during trick or treating

hypotheses: Statements about the expected relationship between two concepts

illogical reasoning: Occurs when someone jumps to premature conclusions or presents an argument that is based on invalid assumptions

myths: Beliefs that are based on emotion rather than rigorous analysis

operationalization: The process of giving a concept a working definition; determining how each concept in your study will be measured

overgeneralization: Occurs when people conclude that what they have observed in one or a few cases is true for all cases

personal experience knowledge: Knowledge developed through actual experiences

research: The scientific investigation of an issue, problem, or subject utilizing research methods

research methods: The tools that allow criminology and criminal justice researchers to systematically study crime and the criminal justice system and include the basic rules, appropriate techniques, and relevant procedures for conducting research

resistance to change: The reluctance to change our beliefs in light of new, accurate, and valid information to the contrary

secondary data analysis: Occurs when researchers obtain and reanalyze data that were originally collected for a different purpose

selective observation: Choosing, either consciously or unconsciously, to pay attention to and remember events that support our personal preferences and beliefs

survey research: Obtaining data directly from research participants by asking them questions, often conducted through self-administered questionnaires and personal interviews

tradition knowledge: Knowledge developed when we accept something as true because that is the way things have always been, so it must be right

variables: Concepts that have been given a working definition and can take on different values

1 Briggs, Lisa T., Stephen E. Brown, Robert B. Gardner, and Robert L. Davidson. (2009). “D.RA.MA: An extended conceptualization of student anxiety in criminal justice research methods courses.” Journal of Criminal Justice Education 20 (3), 217–226.

2 Betz, N. E. (1978). “Prevalence, distribution, and correlates of math anxiety in college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology 25 (5), 441–448.

3 Briggs, et al., 2009, p. 221.

4 Ibid, p. 221.

5 Ibid, p. 221.

6 Kappeler, Victor E., and Gary W. Potter. (2005). The mythology of crime and criminal justice. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland.

7 Tennessee v. Gamer, 471 U.S. 1 (1985).

8 Lombroso-Ferrero, Gina. (1911). Criminal man, according to the classification of Cesare Lombroso. New York: Putnam.

9 This study was included in Amy B. Thistlethwaite and John D. Wooldredge. (2010). Forty studies that changed criminal justice: Explorations into the history of criminal justice research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

10 Petersilia, J., S. Turner, J. Kahan, and J. Peterson. (1985). Granting felons probation: Public risks and alternatives. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.

11 Vito, G. (1986). “Felony probation and recidivism: Replication and response.” Federal Probation 50, 17–25.

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13 Finckenauer, James O. (1982). Scared straight! and the panacea phenomenon. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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16 Robertson, Jordan. “I’m being punished for living right”: Background check system is haunted by errors. December 20, 2011. /ap-impact-criminal-past-isnt-182335059.html. Retrieved on December 29, 2011.

17 Shelton, D. E. (2008). “The ‘CSI Effect’: Does it really exist?” NIJ Journal 259 [NCJ 221501].

18 Best, Joel. (2011). “Halloween sadism: The evidence.” 19716/726/Halloween%20sadism.revised%20thru%20201l.pdf?sequence=6. Retrieved on May 7, 2012.

19 Best, Joel. (1985, November). “The myth of the Halloween sadist. Psychology Today 19 (11), p. 14.

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24 Friedrichs, David O. “The myth that white-collar crime is only about financial loss.” 20–28 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

25 Kuhns III, Joseph B., and Charisse T. M. Coston. “The myth that serial murderers are disproportionately white males.” 37–44 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

26 Longmire, Dennis R., Jacqueline Buffington-Vollum, and Scott Vollum. “The myth of positive differentiation in the classification of dangerous offenders.” 123–131 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

27 Masters, Ruth E., Lori Beth Way, Phyllis B. Gerstenfeld, Bernadette T. Muscat, Michael Hooper, John P. J. Dussich, Lester Pincu, and Candice A. Skrapec. (2013). CJ realities and challenges, 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

32 Brownstein, Henry H. “The myth of drug users as violent offenders.” 45–53 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

33 Goldstein, P. (1985). “The drugs/violence nexus: A tripartite conceptual framework.” Journal of Drug Issues 15, 493–506.

34 Goldstein, P, H. Brownstein, and P. Ryan. (1992). “Drug-related homicide in New York City: 1984 and 1988.” Crime & Delinquency 38, 459–476.

35 Parker, R., and K. Auerhahn. (1998). “Alcohol, drugs, and violence.” Annual Review of Sociology 24, 291–311, p. 291.

36 Buerger, Michael. “The myth of racial profiling.” 97–103 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

37 Cordner, Gary, and Kathryn E. Scarborough. “The myth that science solves crimes.” 104–110 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

38 Willis, James J., Stephen D. Mastrofski, and David Weisburd. “The myth that COMPSTAT reduces crime and transforms police organizations.” 111–119 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

39 Masters, et al., 2013.

43 Scott, Eric J. (1981). Calls for service: Citizen demand and initial police response. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

44 Lersch, Kim. “The myth of policewomen on patrol.” 89–96 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

45 Janikowski, Richard. “The myth that the exclusionary rule allows many criminals to escape justice.” 132–139 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

46 Bishop, Donna M. “The myth that harsh punishments reduce juvenile crime.” 140–148 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

47 Immarigeon, Russ. “The myth that public attitudes are punitive.” 149–157 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

48 Acker, James R. “The myth of closure and capital punishment.” 167–175 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

49 Masters, et al., 2013.

52 Lersch, 2006.

53 Newport, Frank. “In U.S., support for death penalty falls to 39-year low.” October 13, 2011. .com/poll/150089/support-death-penalty-falls-year-low.aspx. Retrieved on April 16, 2012.

54 Applegate, Brandon. “The myth that the death penalty is administered fairly.” 158–166 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

55 Williams, M. R., and J. E. Holcomb. (2001). “Racial disparity and death sentences in Ohio.” Journal of Criminal Justice 29, 207–218.

56 Snell, Tracy L. (2011, December). Capital punishment, 2010—statistical tables. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

57 Applegate, 2006.

58 Williams and Holcomb, 2001.

59 Applegate, 2006.

61 Wood, Peter B. “The myth that imprisonment is the most severe form of punishment.” 192–200 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

63 Michalowski, Raymond. “The myth that punishment reduces crime.” 179–191 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

64 McShane, Marilyn, Frank P. Williams III, and Beth Pelz. “The myth of prisons as country clubs.” 201–208 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

65 Parker, Mary. “The myth that prisons can be self-supporting.” 209–213 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

66 Blakely, Curtis, and John Ortiz Smykla. “Correctional privatization and the myth of inherent efficiency.” 214–220 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

67 Jones, G. Mark. “The myth that the focus of community corrections is rehabilitation.” 221–226 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

68 Cullen, Francis T., and Paula Smith. “The myth that correctional rehabilitation does not work.” 227–238 in Bohm, Robert M., and Jeffrey T. Walker. (2006). Demystifying crime and criminal justice. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

69 Masters, et al., 2013.

73 Petersilia, Joan. (1990). “When probation becomes more dreaded than prison. Federal Probation 54, 23–27.

75 Wood, P. B., and H. G. Grasmick. (1999). “Toward the development of punishment equivalencies: Male and female inmates rate the severity of alternative sanctions compared to prison.” Justice Quarterly 16, 19–50.

76 Example is excerpted from Amy B. Thistlethwaite and John D. Wooldredge. (2010). Forty studies that changed criminal justice: Explorations into the history of criminal justice research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. This is an excellent book that demonstrates the impact research has had on criminal justice operations.

77 National Commission on Productivity. (1973). Opportunities for improving productivity in police services. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, p. 19.

78 Pate, T., A. Ferrara, R. Bowers, and J. Lorence. (1976). Police response time: Its determinants and effects. Washington, DC: Police Foundation.

79 Worden, R. (1993). “Toward equity and efficiency in law enforcement: Differential police response. American Journal of Police 12, 1–32.

80 Example is excerpted from Amy B. Thistlethwaite and John D. Wooldredge. (2010). Forty studies that changed criminal justice: Explorations into the history of criminal justice research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

81 Simon, R. (1967). The jury and the defense of insanity. Boston: Little, Brown.

83 Steffensmeier, D., J. Ulmer, & J. Kramer. (1998). “The interaction of race, gender, and age in criminal sentencing: The punishment cost of being young, black, and male. Criminology 36, 763–797.

84 Example is excerpted from Amy B. Thistlethwaite and John D. Wooldredge. (2010). Forty studies that changed criminal justice: Explorations into the history of criminal justice research. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

85 Martinson, R. (1974). “What works? Questions and answers about prison reform.” The Public Interest 10, 22–54.

86 Ibid, p. 25.

87 Ibid, p. 49.

Applied Research Methods in Criminal Justice and Criminology by University of North Texas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Module 3 Chapter 1: From Research Questions to Research Approaches

The approaches that social work investigators adopt in their research studies are directly related to the nature of the research questions being addressed.In Module 2 you learned about exploratory, descriptive, and explanatory research questions. Let’s consider different approaches to finding answers to each type of question.

In this chapter we build on what was learned in Module 2 about research questions, examining how investigators’ approaches to research are determined by the nature of those questions. The approaches we explore are all systematic, scientific approaches, and when properly conducted and reported, they all contribute empirical evidence to build knowledge.  In this chapter you will read about:

  • qualitative research approaches for understanding diverse populations, social problems, and social phenomena,
  • quantitative research approaches for understanding diverse populations, social problems, and social phenomena,
  • mixed methods research approaches for understanding diverse populations, social problems, and social phenomena.

Overview of Qualitative Approaches

Questions of a descriptive or exploratory nature are often asked and addressed through  qualitative research . The specific aim in these studies is to understand diverse populations, social work problems, or social phenomena as they naturally occur, situated in their natural environments, providing rich, in-depth, participant-centered descriptions of the phenomena being studied. Qualitative research approaches have been described as “humanistic” in aiming to study the world from the perspective of those who are experiencing it themselves; this also contributes to a social justice commitment in that the approaches give “voice” to the individuals who are experiencing the phenomena of interest (Denzen & Lincoln, 2011).  As such, qualitative research approaches are also credited with being sensitive and responsive to diversity—embracing feminist, ethnic, class, critical race, queer, and ability/disability theory and lenses.

In qualitative research, the investigator is engaged as an observer and interpreter, being acutely aware of the subjectivity of the resulting observations and interpretations.

“At this level, qualitative research involves an interpretive, naturalistic approach to the world” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011, p. 3)

Because the data are rich and deep, a lot of information is collected by involving relatively few participants; otherwise, the investigator would be overwhelmed by a tremendous volume of information to collect, sift through, process, interpret, and analyze. Thus, a single qualitative study has a relatively low level of generalizability  to the population as a whole because of its methodology, but that is not the aim or goal of this approach.

In addition, because the aim is to develop understanding of the participating individuals’ lived experiences, the investigator in a qualitative study seldom imposes structure with standardized measurement tools. The investigator may not even start with preconceived theory and hypotheses. Instead, the methodologies involve a great deal of open-ended triggers, questions, or stimuli to be interpreted by the persons providing insight:

“Qualitative research’s express purpose is to produce descriptive data in an individual’s own written or spoken words and/or observable behavior” (Holosko, 2006, p. 12).

Furthermore, investigators often become a part of the qualitative research process: they maintain awareness of their own influences on the data being collected and on the impact of their own experiences and processes in interpreting the data provided by participants. In some qualitative methodologies, the investigator actually enters into/becomes immersed in the events or phenomena being studied, to both live and observe the experiences first-hand.

Qualitative data and interpretations are recognized as being subjective in nature—that is the purpose—rather than assuming objectivity. Qualitative research is based on experientially derived data and is interpretive, meaning it is “concerned with understanding the meaning of human experience from the subject’s own frame of reference” (Holosko, 2006, p. 13). In this approach, conclusions about the nature of reality are specific to each individual study participant, following his or her own interpretation of that reality. These approaches are considered to flow from an inductive reasoning process where specific themes or patterns are derived from general data (Creswell & Poth, 2018).

Several purposes of qualitative approaches in social work include:

  • describing and exploring the nature of phenomena, events, or relationships at any system level (individual to global)
  • generating theory
  • initially test ideas or assumptions (in theory or about practices)
  • evaluate participants’ lived experiences with practices, programs, policies, or participation in a research study, particularly with diverse participants
  • explore “fit” of quantitative research conclusions with participants’ lived experiences, particularly with diverse participants
  • inform the development of clinical or research assessment/measurement tools, particularly with diverse participants.

Overview of Quantitative Approaches

Questions of the exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory type are often asked and addressed through quantitative research  approaches, particularly questions that have a numeric component. Exploratory and descriptive quantitative studies rely on objective measures for data collection which is a major difference from qualitative studies which are aimed at understanding subjective perspectives and experiences. Explanatory quantitative studies often begin with theory and hypotheses, and proceed to empirically test the hypotheses that investigators generated. By their quantitative (numeric) nature, statistical hypothesis testing is possible in many types of quantitative studies.

Quantitative research studies utilize methodologies that enhance generalizability of results to the greatest extent possible—individual differences are de-emphasized, similarities across individuals are emphasized. These studies can be quite large in terms of participant numbers, and the study samples need to be developed in such a manner as to support generalization to the larger populations of interest.

The process is generally described as following a deductive logical system where specific data points are combined to lead to developing a generalizable conclusion. The philosophical roots (epistemology) underlying quantitative approaches is positivism, involving the seeking of empirical “facts or causes of social phenomena based on experimentallyderived evidence and/or valid observations” (Holosko, 2006, p. 13). The empirical orientation is objective in that investigators attempt to be detached from the collection and interpretation of data in order to minimize their own influences and biases. Furthermore, investigators utilize objective measurement tools to the greatest extent possible in the process of collecting quantitative study data.

Several purposes of quantitative approaches in social work include:

  • describing and exploring the dimensions of diverse populations, phenomena, events, or relationships at any system level (individual to global)—how much, how many, how large, how often, etc. (including epidemiology questions and methods)
  • testing theory (including etiology questions)
  • experimentally determining the existence of relationships between factors that might influence phenomena or relationships at any system level (including epidemiology and etiology questions)
  • testing causal pathways between factors that might influence phenomena or relationships at any system level (including etiology questions)
  • evaluate quantifiable outcomes of practices, programs, or policies
  • assess the reliability and validity of clinical or research assessment/measurement tools.

Overview of Mixed-Method Approaches

Important dimensions distinguish between qualitative and quantitative approaches. First, qualitative approaches rely on “insider” perspectives, whereas quantitative approaches are directed by “outsiders” in the role of investigator (Padgett, 2008). Second, qualitative results are presented holistically, whereas quantitative approaches present results in terms of specific variables dissected from the whole for close examination; qualitative studies emphasize the context of individuals’ experiences, whereas quantitative studies tend to decontextualize the phenomena under study (Padgett, 2008). Third, quantitative research approaches tend to follow a positivist philosophy, seeking objectivity and representation of what actually exists; qualitative research approaches follow from a post-positivist philosophy, recognizing that observation is always shaped by the observer, therefore is always subjective in nature and this should be acknowledged and embraced. In post-positivist qualitative research traditions, realities are perceived as being socially constructed, whereas in positivist quantitative research, a single reality exists, waiting to be discovered or understood. The quantitative perspective on reality has a long tradition in the physical and natural sciences (physics, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, astronomy, and others). The social construction perspective has a strong hold in social science and understanding social phenomena. But what if an investigator’s questions are relevant to both qualitative and quantitative approaches?

Given the fundamental philosophical and practical differences, some scholars argue that there can be no mixing of the approaches, that the underlying paradigms are too different. However, mixed-methods research  has also been described as a new paradigm (since the 1980s) for social science:

“Like the mythology of the phoenix, mixed methods research has arisen out of the ashes of the paradigm wars to become the third methodological movement. The fields of applied social science and evaluation are among those which have shown the greatest popularity and uptake of mixed methods research designs” (Cameron & Miller, 2007, p. 3). 

chapter 1 3 of research

Mixed-methods research approaches are used to address in a single study the acknowledged limitations of both quantitative and qualitative approaches. Mixed methods research combines elements of both qualitative and quantitative approaches for the purpose of achieving both depth and breadth of understanding, along with corroboration of results (Johnson, Onwuegbuzie, & Turner, 2007, p. 123). One mixed-methods strategy is related to the concept of  triangulation : understanding an event or phenomenon from the use of varied data sources and methods all applied to understanding the same phenomenon (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011; see Figure 1-1).

Figure 1-1. Depiction of triangulation as synthesis of different data sources

chapter 1 3 of research

For example, in a survey research study of student debt load experienced by social work doctoral students, the investigators gathered quantitative data concerning demographics, dollar amounts of debt and resources, and other numeric data from students and programs (Begun & Carter, 2017). In addition, they collected qualitative data about the experience of incurring and managing debt load, how debt shaped students’ career path decisions, practices around mentoring doctoral students about student debt load, and ideas for addressing the problem. Triangulation came into play in two ways: first, collecting data from students and programs about the topics, and second, a sub-sample of the original surveyed participants engaged in qualitative interviews concerning the “fit” or validity of conclusions drawn from the prior qualitative and quantitative data.

Three different types of mixed methods approaches are used:

  • Convergent designs involve the simultaneous collection of both qualitative and quantitative data, followed by analysis of both data sets, and merging the two sets of results in a comparative manner.
  • Explanatory sequential designs use quantitative methods first, and then apply qualitative methods to help explain and further interpret the quantitative results.
  • Exploratory sequential designs first explore a problem or phenomenon through qualitative methods, especially if the topic is previously unknown or the population is understudied and unfamiliar. These qualitative findings are then used to build the quantitative phase of a project (Creswell, 2014, p. 6).

Mixed methods approaches are useful in developing and testing new research or clinical measurement tools. For example, this is done in an exploratory sequential process whereby detail-rich qualitative data inform the creation of a quantitative instrument. The quantitative instrument is then tested in both quantitative and qualitative ways to confirm that it is adequate for its intended use. This iterative process is depicted in Figure 1-2.

Figure 1-2. Iterative qualitative and quantitative process of instrument development

chapter 1 3 of research

One example of how this mixed-methods approach was utilized was in development of the Safe-At-Home instrument for assessing individuals’ subjective readiness to change their intimate partner violence behavior (Begun et al., 2003; 2008). The transtheoretical model of behavior change (TMBC) underlies the instrument’s development: identifying stages in readiness to change one’s behavior and matching these stages to the most appropriate type of intervention strategy (Begun et al., 2001). The first step in developing the intimate partner violence Safe-At-Home instrument for assessing readiness to change was to qualitatively generate a list of statements that could be used in a quantitative rating scale. Providers of treatment services to individuals arrested for domestic or relationship violence were engaged in mutual teaching/learning with the investigators concerning the TMBC as it might relate to the perpetration of intimate partner violence. They independently generated lists of the kinds of statements they heard from individuals in their treatment programs, statements they believed were demonstrative of what they understood as the different stages in the change process. The investigators then worked with them to reduce the amassed list of statements into stage-representative categories, eliminating duplicates and ambiguous statements, and retaining the original words and phrases they heard to the greatest extent possible. The second phase was both quantitative and qualitative in nature: testing the instrument with a small sample of men engaged in batters’ treatment programs and interviewing the men about the experience of using the instrument. Based on the results and their feedback, the instrument was revised. This process was followed through several iterations. The next phases were quantitative: determining the psychometric characteristics of the instrument and using it to quantitatively evaluate batterer treatment programs—the extent to which individuals were helped to move forward in stages of the change cycle.

Interactive Excel Workbook Activities

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Chapter Summary

In this chapter you were introduced to three general approaches for moving from research question to research method. You were provided with a brief overview of the philosophical underpinnings and uses of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-methods approaches. Next, you are provided with more detailed descriptions of qualitative and quantitative traditions and their associated methodologies.

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Social Work 3401 Coursebook Copyright © by Dr. Audrey Begun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Leaving No One Behind in Research, and the Protection-Inclusion Dilemma for Vulnerable Groups

  • Open Access
  • First Online: 01 May 2024

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chapter 1 3 of research

  • Doris Schroeder 12 ,
  • Kate Chatfield 12 ,
  • Roger Chennells 13 ,
  • Hazel Partington 14 ,
  • Joshua Kimani 15 ,
  • Gillian Thomson 14 ,
  • Joyce Adhiambo Odhiambo 15 ,
  • Leana Snyders 16 &
  • Collin Louw 16  

Part of the book series: SpringerBriefs in Research and Innovation Governance

Leaving no one behind is the main transformative promise of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It encapsulates the 21st-century mission of inclusion. This chapter introduces the main mission of this book: leaving no one behind in research. It provides the context for all the chapters that follow by explaining what it means to leave no one behind in research, how the protection-inclusion dilemma for vulnerable groups and individuals is generated, and how risks and mistrust in research might be reduced. The book was written in collaboration with two groups who are traditionally labelled as highly vulnerable and are therefore often excluded from research: the South African San community and an impoverished sex worker community in Nairobi. Working closely throughout all research stages with the two communities, including co-authorship of this book, we prioritised research-participant needs over researcher needs, aiming for minimally risky and minimally burdensome research, as well as increased trust in researchers. This involved foregoing the collection of personal data and obtaining all research input through community researchers. It led to a potential alternative to exclusion from research, namely research led by vulnerable groups for vulnerable groups.

You have full access to this open access chapter,  Download chapter PDF

  • Research ethics
  • Leaving no one behind
  • Vulnerable populations

1.1 Introduction

“Leaving no one behind” encapsulates the 21st-century mission of inclusion. For the UN, it is “the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals” (UNSDG n.d.). We believe that it should also play a role in refining research ethics for the twenty-first century.

Leaving no one behind in research is the vision of this book, and the first chapter will introduce the main ideas and link them to the remainder of the book. The focus will be on how community-led research may have the potential to significantly reduce the risks for certain vulnerable individuals and groups who take part in research.

We use the following definition of vulnerability:

To be vulnerable means to face a significant probability of incurring an identifiable harm while substantially lacking ability and/or means to protect oneself. (Schroeder and Gefenas 2009 )

The definition includes a distinction between those who are unable to protect themselves from harm and exploitation in research because they lack the ability to do so, and those who may be unable to protect themselves from harm and exploitation in research because they lack the means to do so. The former (lack of ability) applies to all groups who are unable to provide informed consent, because they either are still developing the cognitive abilities required (e.g. children) or have temporarily or permanently lost those abilities (e.g. those in a coma or with severe, advanced Alzheimer’s disease). The latter (lack of means) applies to a wide range of groups who are said to be vulnerable, even though they could provide informed consent, prominent examples being pregnant women, persons in dependent situations and impoverished people.

Chapter 2 will present the results of a literature review on which specific groups are considered vulnerable in research today. A simplified preview is given in Table 1.1 , which is based on an analysis of 57 ethics guidelines. There is a lot of disagreement in academic debates about which groups should be regarded as vulnerable in research (Hurst 2008 ; Solomon 2013 ), and more recently whether any groups should be labelled as such, or whether the result is overly patronising (Rogers et al. 2012 ), leading to additional victimisation (Wrigley and Dawson 2016 ).

For this reason, the table is built on an analysis of current ethics guidance. The groups are split into those who can be said to lack the ability to protect themselves (i.e. who cannot provide informed consent) and those who may lack the means to protect themselves. To accommodate those for whom the distinction cannot be made readily, a heading of “unclear” is added to the table. The order in which the groups are listed corresponds with the frequency with which each group is mentioned as vulnerable in the ethics guidance analysed. Where groups overlap (e.g. refugee and minor), only the main grouping has been listed (e.g. refugee).

By far the majority of the groups listed in Table 1.1 are able to provide informed consent and could theoretically protect themselves from exploitation and harm by saying “no” to involvement in research. However, saying “no” can be difficult for many of those groups. For instance, people in the armed forces, prisoners, students and subordinate personnel might be subject to undue influence, as Table 1.2 summarises.

This book was written in collaboration with representatives from the South African San community, an Indigenous group which has historically suffered severe trauma at the hands of outsiders (e.g. genocide by colonists), and representatives from an impoverished sex worker community in Nairobi whose contributions to research have been invaluable, for instance in HIV/Aids research. One of our methodologies (for the surveys described in Chap. 3 ) additionally involved 12 San community researchers who had no prior experience of being involved in research teams before our work began.

The book is not about individuals who are unable to provide consent. They are outside the scope of our work. Instead, our main focus is on two groups that are a subset of the groups listed in italics in Table 1.1 : minoritised ethnic groups (who include Indigenous peoples) and impoverished people (who include most sex workers in low-income settings). The reason for limiting the focus to two specific groups is that the research for this book was fully inclusive, in that it was not about these groups but with and for these groups. We could not have completed this research in the time available without confining ourselves to two groups. We do hope, however, that our findings and recommendations apply to other groups too, and will offer evidence for broader application wherever we can.

This chapter is structured as follows. The first section briefly introduces the concept of leaving no one behind, as popularised by the 2030 Agenda (UNSDG n.d.). The second section links that concept to research. All the main possibilities for leaving no one behind in research will be identified, in order to situate and pinpoint the origin of the protection-inclusion dilemma. The third section applies the distinctions made in the first section to the dilemma identified in the second, that is, the protection-inclusion dilemma (Friesen et al. 2023 ).

What will become clear is that prioritising research participant needs over researcher needs can significantly reduce the risks to Indigenous peoples and sex workers involved in research and simultaneously increase their trust in researchers. Our experiments involved sacrificing the collection of personal data and obtaining all research input through community researchers. We carried out non-clinical health and ethics research, and leave it to other researchers and/or future studies to determine whether our findings may also be relevant to clinical research.

How the remaining chapters contribute to ameliorating the protection-inclusion dilemma is set out in Sect.  1.3 . As we will be moving from a big topic—leaving no one behind—to increasingly specific topics, we present an overview of the main topics of the book in Fig.  1.1 .

figure 1

Main topics of book

1.2 Leaving No One Behind

The concept of leaving no one behind became widespread in the development discourse when the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by world leaders at a UN Summit in September 2015, and came into force on 1 January 2016 (UN n.d.). As the World Health Organization (WHO) describes them,

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to transform our world. They are a call to action to end poverty and inequality, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy health, justice and prosperity. It is critical that no one is left behind. (WHO n.d.)

The essence of leaving no one behind can be summed up in two main points.

1.2.1 Putting the Most Disadvantaged First

Prominently in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the signatories assure readers: “As we embark on this great collective journey, we pledge that no one will be left behind … And we will endeavour to reach the furthest behind first” (UN 2015 ). The second part of the pledge has been taken up regularly by others. For instance, “Reaching the furthest behind first is the answer to leaving no one behind” was the key message of a panel of prominent civil society activists, global experts and local leaders attending a meeting of the High‑Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (UN-DESA 2017 ). The UN plea to put the furthest behind first is reminiscent of John Rawls’s “difference principle”.

Simplified, the difference principle makes benefits for the least advantaged the decisive factor in agreeing on whether a society is just, or, as Rawls put it, “the higher expectations of those better situated are just if and only if they work as part of a scheme which improves the expectations of the least advantaged members of society” (Rawls 1999 : 65). According to van Parijs ( 2003 : 200),

Few components of John Rawls’s political philosophy have proven so epoch-making as what he somewhat oddly called the “difference principle”. None has exercised as great an influence outside the circle of academic philosophers.

Similarly, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest person you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be any use to them” (Watkins 2014 ). (In this book we use the terms “most disadvantaged” and “most marginalised” as synonyms for “furthest behind” and “least advantaged”.)

1.2.2 Including the Voices of the Most Disadvantaged

Not only are the most disadvantaged to be helped first, but the process of formulating the SDGs also “paid particular attention to the voices of the poorest and most vulnerable” (UN 2015 ). This is reminiscent of a groundbreaking book published by the World Bank, Can Anyone Hear Us? Voices of the Poor , which collected the voices of over 40,000 poor people in 50 countries, who were asked what poverty meant to them and how it should be measured (Narayan et al. 2000 ). This type of inclusion namely, listening to those whose challenges are to be overcome is also a cornerstone of equitable research (Schroeder et al. 2019 ).

The next section explores what leaving no one behind in research could mean.

1.3 Leaving No One Behind in Research

Leaving no one behind in research can mean many things. Table 1.3 summarises the main possibilities. The list may not be complete but will suffice to show where the book’s focus lies and identify the origin of the protection-inclusion dilemma, which will be discussed later. The elements of the table align with the stages of the research process, and each of these points is discussed in more detail below. Smith ( 1999 : 10) touches on all the issues when she asks:

Whose research is it? Who owns it? Whose interests does it serve? Who will benefit from it? Who has designed its questions and framed its scope? Who will carry it out? Who will write it up? How will the results be disseminated?

1.3.1 Research Focus

The research enterprise commonly starts with decisions about which areas and topics are to be researched. For instance, in 1990, the Council on Health Research for Development discovered that only 10% of health research resources were spent on countries that saw 90% of preventable deaths worldwide (CMAJ 2004 ): the 10/90 gap. Thirty years later, “the imbalance between research needs and research efforts persists as most of the research effort concentrates on diseases affecting high-income countries” (Yegros-Yegros et al. 2020 ). In the context of leaving no one behind in research, it would clearly be in the interests of marginalised people if research efforts were better matched to their research needs.

1.3.2 Research Positions

Who has designed the research questions and framed their scope? Footnote 1 Who will carry out the research? Who will write it up? These questions from Tuhiwai Smith are about the researchers, the vast majority of whom are based in high-income countries with a high statistical likelihood of being white and male. “Taken together, the G20 Footnote 2 countries boast 88.8% of the world’s researchers, 93.2% of research spending and 90.6% of scientific publications” (Naujokaitytė 2021 ). In a 2021 Nature survey among scientific researchers, “82% of respondents in the United Kingdom, 81% in Germany and 74% in the United States identified themselves as White” (Woolston 2021 ). At the same time, fewer than 30% of researchers worldwide are women (Shannon et al. 2019 ). Even though researchers generally have a university education and are therefore unlikely to be among the most disadvantaged that the “leaving no one behind” agenda targets, it is crucial that leaving no one behind in research includes ending all forms of discrimination or biased practices, such as appointing people who are similar to oneself (affinity bias) (Gibney 2022 ).

1.3.3 Involving Communities and Participants in Research

The research enterprise often includes local communities—as in the case of climate change research, which requires access to soil (Jansson and Hofmockel 2020 )—or research participants, as in the case of most medical research. As Apolot (Nelson et al. 2021 ) notes in the context of leaving no one behind in research:

Your life as a researcher will get much easier if you listen … when you design and do everything with the community, instead of imposing your ideas on them, then the process will work much better.

Equitable engagement with local communities and research participants brings leaving no one behind in research into the realm of research ethics. It is not only beneficial for the research, as Apolot notes, to work closely with local communities and research participants, but also fairer, especially when vulnerable people and power imbalances are involved (Schroeder et al. 2019 ).

1.3.4 Involving Pregnant Women in Research

At first sight, the demand to include pregnant women, and by implication their foetuses, in research (possibly as an example for other vulnerable populations) looks very similar to all the other calls, as though equity reasons should drive inclusion demands. Pregnant women are commonly regarded as a vulnerable group (Table 1.1 ), and this perception has led to their widespread exclusion from research (Ballantyne and Rogers 2016 ). According to Ballantyne and Rogers ( 2016 ), there is a tendency towards blanket exclusion rather than risk mitigation, because how pregnancy renders a person vulnerable is not well defined. The result of this blanket exclusion from research is a gap in medical knowledge, with repercussions for medical practice. In this example, excluding pregnant women from research leaves the knowledge base on safe and effective medication for use during pregnancy missing or incomplete, potentially resulting in significant harm to pregnant patients in general (Zur 2023 ).

A closer look reveals that pregnant women are left behind as a group because it may be too risky for certain individual pregnant women to take part in medical research. However, if some pregnant women were to accept the risks of potential harm for themselves and their foetuses, all pregnant women and public health could gain. This distinction between the individual on the one hand and the group and public health on the other hand is different for the other cases listed in Table 1.3 , as explained below. It explains the essence of the protection-inclusion dilemma. Let us look at the last possibility for not leaving groups behind in research before we return to that point.

1.3.5 Research Benefits

Who will benefit from the research? This is one of Tuhiwai Smith’s most powerful questions. “Those who are paid to do the research” is one narrow answer, aligned with Tuhiwai Smith’s ( 1999 : 3) criticism that unwanted research in her community “suggested things that would not work, and made careers for people who already had jobs”. However, in line with the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights (UNESCO 2005 ), we take the benefits of research to mean the fruits of research: for instance, insights into how to improve processes, or innovative products and services.

The Leave No One Behind: Strengthening Health Systems for UHC and the SDGs in Africa report by WHO Africa ( 2017 ) calls for health services that are “responsive to the population needs and provided in a manner that guarantees equitable access” (WHO 2017 : 3). This aligns with access to the fruits of research, in the sense of, for instance, access to medical products for everybody.

According to Jeffrey Sachs, “there is enough in the world for everyone to live free of poverty and it won’t require a big effort on the part of big countries to help poor ones” (Xinhua 2018 ). Access to the fruits of research is possibly the most urgent of the five goals discussed here, as it has the potential to reduce preventable mortality and morbidity in the most disadvantaged populations most quickly. And it does not have to be medical research. Poor nutrition, indoor air pollution and lack of access to proper sanitation and health education are major contributors to poverty-related preventable mortality and morbidity, and questions about reducing indoor air pollution could be addressed, for example, through research undertaken by engineers (Smith 2002 ).

Based on the distinctions drawn in Table 1.3 , we now explain the protection-inclusion dilemma in research.

1.4 The Protection-Inclusion Dilemma in Research

The protection-inclusion dilemma occurs at one particular research stage, implementation (Fig.  1.2 ).

figure 2

Main stages of research

Research implementation has been highlighted in red in Fig.  1.2 for the following reason. Of the five stages of research Footnote 3 listed, only one can often be risky and burdensome, and then only for a subset of the people involved, and that is research implementation. While research implementation can carry some risks for researchers, such as health and safety risks in work with infectious agents, it is mostly research participants who endure risks and burdens in research. By taking part in research, they enable the process of science and wider community benefits such as new products, services and processes.

This dilemma is similar to other dilemmas where the wider community benefits from the actions of a small group. For instance, Germany now generates over 40% of its electricity from wind, sun, water or biomass (BMWK n.d.), yet individual villages are often opposed to wind farms “in their back yard” (Bürgerbegehren Rettet den Dömlingsberg n.d.). A typical argument from such a village is that while the benefits of green electricity may be enjoyed by all, wind generators uglify their particular landscape (Bürgerbegehren Rettet den Dömlingsberg n.d.). This is the scenario from which the protection-inclusion dilemma derives.

Inclusion is often regarded as an incontrovertibly good thing. For instance, UN Women argue, referring back to the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs, that “women’s equal participation and leadership in political and public life are essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030” (UN Women 2023 ). And inclusion is clearly a good thing for four out of the five stages set out in Table 1.3 —inclusive research focus, inclusive hiring of researchers, inclusive research engagement and inclusive research benefits for humanity—but not when it comes to the inclusion of vulnerable groups or individuals in research.

The inclusion of research participants in research (and of villages among the locations of wind farms for the benefit of the broader community) is not necessarily a good thing for all involved, because potential harms and burdens are carried by a small group for the benefit of a larger group.

The fact that in research some carry risks and burdens for the benefit of others is a dilemma that is particularly pressing when research participants are from a vulnerable group. The Declaration of Helsinki therefore imposes significant restrictions on such research:

Medical research with a vulnerable group is only justified if the research is responsive to the health needs or priorities of this group and the research cannot be carried out in a non-vulnerable group. In addition, this group should stand to benefit from the knowledge, practices or interventions that result from the research. (WMA 2013 : Art. 20)

In other words, the Declaration of Helsinki protects vulnerable individuals from potential harm and exploitation by excluding them from most medical research, which is protection through exclusion . Because leaving no one behind is the diametric opposite of exclusion, we consider in the next section how the two constituent parts of leaving no one behind identified earlier can assist in addressing the protection-inclusion dilemma in research.

1.4.1 The Most Disadvantaged First in Research?

The first point we identified from the “leaving no one behind” mission of the 2030 Agenda was the ambition to put the most disadvantaged first. How would that work in research implementation, and what implications would it have for research ethics?

Staying within the framework of Rawlsian analysis, the “most needy members of society [are those that]… lack basic necessities such as food, shelter, and safety” (Green 2013 : 124). This Rawlsian-inspired definition of the most disadvantaged aligns with the first two SDGs, which aim to fight poverty and hunger (UN-DESA n.d.).

One could argue that the protection-inclusion dilemma is at its harshest in this group. To avoid a double burden, one could reasonably say, those who are already highly disadvantaged should not be burdened with involvement in research. Table 1.4 provides examples of types of research that have harmed research participants in the past 20 years, with one example from 30 years ago. All examples focus on vulnerable populations as listed in Table 1.1 .

The cases listed in Table 1.4 focus on adults who had the ability to provide informed consent and who took part in a variety of research studies, not just clinical research. They were harmed as a result. Being involved in research is not only potentially harmful but also burdensome in the time required for the study itself and for the informed consent procedure. For instance, a study evaluating the informed consent process for clinical research in the UK and Ireland found that the “mean time taken for the research participant’s last informed consent discussion was 51 min” (O’Sullivan et al. 2021 ). For one person, the discussion took 300 min (O’Sullivan et al. 2021 ).

Given the above examples of harm done to individuals from vulnerable populations who took part in research, protection through exclusion seems to be an approach that makes sense for the most disadvantaged groups, the target of the “leaving no one behind” agenda. In terms of the Declaration of Helsinki, research involving these groups would still be possible if it could not be undertaken on a non-vulnerable group, if it aligned with the health needs of the vulnerable group and if the results of the research were accessible to the group (WMA 2013 : Art. 20). However,

A central challenge at the heart of planning and reviewing research involving vulnerable populations is a paradox that overprotection can block needed research, while research without adequate support and benefits can worsen vulnerabilities. (Molyneux et al. 2021 )

One answer to the protection-inclusion dilemma that has been emerging strongly over the past decade consists of avoiding the categorical approach to vulnerability (Gordon 2020 ) and focusing on situations that make people vulnerable rather than labelling entire groups as such (Gordon 2020 ). Hence, it is wrong to use a black-and-white approach which assumes that somebody is either vulnerable and ought to be excluded from research or not vulnerable and therefore fit to be included in research. Such an approach

does not account for variation in the degree of vulnerability within the group based on individual characteristics, and classifies certain persons as vulnerable rather than identifying situations in which individuals might be considered vulnerable. The alternate contextual approach allows for a more nuanced understanding of the nature of the vulnerability than the categorical approach and therefore a more focused approach to safeguards. (Gordon 2020 )

A contextual approach also takes account of the significant difference between those people who are vulnerable because they lack the ability to defend themselves against exploitation (e.g. those with very advanced Alzheimer’s disease) and those who lack the means to defend themselves against exploitation (e.g. impoverished, illiterate people). The situation of the latter group may be transient, in that they may learn to read and may find a way of making a secure living. In that case, they would previously have been in a situation of vulnerability. We fully agree with this approach, which has also been taken by some ethics guidance drafters.

For instance, in 2018, the International Ethical Guidelines for Health-Related Research Involving Humans by the Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) noted that they did not want to label “entire classes of individuals as vulnerable” (CIOMS 2016 : 57). Instead, they wanted to look at “specific characteristics that may render individuals” prone to harm or exploitation and then identify mechanisms for better protection (CIOMS 2016 : 57).

We would like to turn to another approach to resolving the protection-inclusion dilemma for at least some types of research and at least some vulnerable groups. We want to focus on the minimal risk , minimal burden element of research. This exemption from involvement in research for vulnerable populations even applies to those who are unable to consent. The Oviedo Convention (Council of Europe 1997 ) allows research involving participants who are unable to consent if the research has the potential to benefit the group and if it “entails only minimal risk and minimal burden for the individual concerned” (Council of Europe 1997 : Art. 17(2)(ii)). Likewise, the Declaration of Helsinki allows research with those unable to give consent if it can “promote the health of the group represented by the potential subject, the research cannot instead be performed with persons capable of providing informed consent, and the research entails only minimal risk and minimal burden” (WMA 2013 : Art. 28).

It might be assumed that research entailing minimal harm and minimal burden can always involve vulnerable individuals if all other relevant requirements are observed (a match to research needs, informed consent, community approval and access to results). However, this is not the case. Such research can be blocked for a variety of reasons, all related to the labelling of particular groups as vulnerable and the recommendation to protect them through exclusion. Research can even be deterred for the sole reason that research ethics committees are likely to exclude vulnerable groups from research anyway.

For instance, a UK study found that the reason why prisoners were rarely involved in research was not so much that it was impossible to address ethics concerns, but that researchers regarded the burden of overcoming governance hurdles as too great (Charles et al. 2016 : 1). Or, as we will see in Chap. 2 , research involving vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) is blocked by research ethics committees from high-income countries (HICs) in an act of “remote paternalism” aiming to protect via exclusion. This can also happen because the “culture of ethics review … has been considered overly risk averse” and “protectionist in nature” (Friesen et al. 2023 ).

Instead, as the CIOMS ( 2018 ) guidelines recommend, better mechanisms for protection in research are needed as a more nuanced way to protect vulnerable populations. If the research only involved minimal risk and minimal burden, this would be an ideal way of moving forward.

One possible obstacle to this approach is that not much research seems to satisfy the criterion of minimal risk and minimal burden. In fact, as the Declaration of Helsinki notes: “In medical practice and in medical research, most interventions involve risks and burdens” (WMA 2013 : Art. 16).

We believe that the potential exists to increase the number of research studies that could meet the description of minimal risk and minimal burden, if scientists were willing to look critically at their methods. In other words, opportunities for minimally risky and minimally burdensome research involving vulnerable populations could be increased by deprioritising traditional methodological scenarios.

As we will see in Chap. 4 , many Nairobi sex workers are highly reluctant to take part in research that collects personal data. There is a particular fear that involvement in research will reveal to third parties, such as landlords or family members, that the person earns his or her living with sex work. An even greater fear, taking into account that sex work is illegal in Kenya, is that personal data will be revealed to law enforcement agents. Chap. 4 will explain some of the consequences of revealing sex work as an occupation to outsiders—consequences that include rape and other violent abuse.

By undertaking research without personal data collection, one can prioritise research participants’ interests over researchers’ interests . Working with two communities that suffer from high stigmatisation, we sacrificed—from a researcher’s perspective—the benefit of obtaining personal data from research encounters with these communities. Research for this book involved data from 239 South African Indigenous San community members, 19 highly marginalised Nairobi sex workers, and just under 90 delegates from both groups who took part in consultation workshops, but no personal data were recorded for research purposes.

South African San community members are also often reluctant to take part in research because of previous community experiences of exploitation. When recounting the drive towards the San Code of Research Ethics, San leaders recalled:

The San peoples … have been the object of much academic research over the past centuries. In recent years San leaders have, with increasing confidence, arrived at the conclusion that most academic research on their communities was neither requested, nor useful, nor protected in any meaningful way. In many cases, dissatisfaction if not actual harm was the result. (Chennells and Schroeder 2019 : 4)

Tailoring our methods to the needs and wishes of the San community, and trying to respond to the mistrust generated by prior encounters with researchers for whom the extraction of knowledge, samples or data had been paramount (Chennells and Schroeder 2019 ), we obtained all data through community researchers, and there was no in-person engagement between community members and overseas researchers.

We applied the two approaches—no collection of personal data and all research engagement conducted through community researchers—to our research in both communities. We hoped that these two measures would increase the possibility of conducting research with vulnerable groups in a minimally risky and minimally burdensome way. This would then counteract the exclusion approach to protecting vulnerable groups in research sometimes taken by research ethics committees (Chap. 2 ). Why? Because the Oviedo Convention and the Declaration of Helsinki both allow minimally risky, minimally burdensome research that is tailored to local research even when the participants are unable to provide consent (Council of Europe 1997 : Art. 17(2)(ii), WMA 2013 : Art. 28). Hence, it should certainly be acceptable for those who are regarded as vulnerable but still able to consent.

1.5 Voices of the Most Disadvantaged Heard?

The second part of the mission to leave no one behind set out earlier is the obligation to ensure that the most disadvantaged are heard. From a research benefit perspective, this aligns with best practice whenever a service is developed for the disadvantaged. For instance, Lathrop et al. ( 2022 ) observe: “Respecting people, hearing their stories, and inviting them to share their stories” can contribute to the empowerment of marginalised communities. Livingston ( 2018 ) advocates listening to the marginalised as a way of supporting them, when he says that “by listening to individuals’ concerns, we not only connect with their need, but help personalise the experience of support provided” (Livingston 2018 ).

However, one of the main challenges of this approach is mistrust of researchers on the part of communities and individuals. The following factors have all contributed:

long-standing, including colonial, exploitation (Smith 1999 )

21st-century ethics dumping (Schroeder et al. 2018 )

the impact of exploitation by non-researchers, e.g. the media, on the relationship with researchers (Chennells and Schroeder 2019 : 19)

patronising or culturally inappropriate practices (Schroeder et al. 2021 ).

These factors are also why a considerable literature exists on how to reach hard-to-reach groups (Van der Ven et al. 2022 ).

In the cases of the two highly stigmatised and marginalised groups represented in this book, the South African San and the Kenyan sex workers, we found a way to listen while not intruding unnecessarily into the private spheres of those who contributed to the research.

Working closely throughout all research stages with the two communities, who are also represented among the authors of this book, we prioritised research participant needs over researcher needs, aiming for minimally risky and minimally burdensome research as well as increased trust in researchers. This involved foregoing the collection of personal data and obtaining all research input through community researchers. It led to an alternative to exclusion from research, namely research led by vulnerable groups for vulnerable groups. We hope this book shows that the approach worked, at least for ethics research on the topic of vulnerability and within the domain of non-clinical health research (e.g. an increase in HIV infections). Table 1.5 summarises the structure of the book.

For the purpose of this brief overview, it is not necessary to distinguish between funders who design research questions with very prescriptive calls and the researchers carrying out the research.

“The G20 or Group of Twenty is one of the most powerful multilateral platforms today. It plays an important role in shaping and strengthening global governance on all major international economic issues”. (Chaturvedi et al. 2023 )

This is a simplified diagram. Often there is no separate stage of research evaluation (e.g. Could the methods be improved for the next project? Could resources be used more efficiently?), and research evaluation may occur before research dissemination. However, these facts are not relevant to the point being made here.

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Schroeder, D. et al. (2024). Leaving No One Behind in Research, and the Protection-Inclusion Dilemma for Vulnerable Groups. In: Vulnerability Revisited. SpringerBriefs in Research and Innovation Governance. Springer, Cham.

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Discrimination Experiences Shape Most Asian Americans’ Lives

1. asian americans’ experiences with discrimination in their daily lives, table of contents.

  • Key findings from the survey
  • Most Asian Americans have been treated as foreigners in some way, no matter where they were born
  • Most Asian Americans have been subjected to ‘model minority’ stereotypes, but many haven’t heard of the term
  • Experiences with other daily and race-based discrimination incidents
  • In their own words: Key findings from qualitative research on Asian Americans and discrimination experiences
  • Discrimination in interpersonal encounters with strangers
  • Racial discrimination at security checkpoints
  • Encounters with police because of race or ethnicity
  • Racial discrimination in the workplace
  • Quality of service in restaurants and stores
  • Discrimination in neighborhoods
  • Experiences with name mispronunciation
  • Discrimination experiences of being treated as foreigners
  • In their own words: How Asian Americans would react if their friend was told to ‘go back to their home country’
  • Awareness of the term ‘model minority’
  • Views of the term ‘model minority’
  • How knowledge of Asian American history impacts awareness and views of the ‘model minority’ label
  • Most Asian Americans have experienced ‘model minority’ stereotypes
  • In their own words: Asian Americans’ experiences with the ‘model minority’ stereotype
  • Asian adults who personally know an Asian person who has been threatened or attacked since COVID-19
  • In their own words: Asian Americans’ experiences with discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Experiences with talking about racial discrimination while growing up
  • Is enough attention being paid to anti-Asian racism in the U.S.?
  • Acknowledgments
  • Sample design
  • Data collection
  • Weighting and variance estimation
  • Methodology: 2021 focus groups of Asian Americans
  • Appendix: Supplemental tables

Most Asian Americans experience discrimination in many parts of their day-to-day lives. In the survey, we asked Asian American adults if they have ever experienced discrimination or been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity.

In addition to this broad question, we also asked whether they have experienced specific discrimination incidents in their everyday life. These include incidents in interpersonal encounters with strangers; at security checkpoints; with the police; in the workplace; at restaurants or stores; and in their neighborhoods.

A bar chart showing that a majority of Asian adults say they have ever experienced discrimination or been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity. 58% Asian adults say they've had this experience at least from time to time. Across different ethnic origin groups, 67% of Korean adults have experienced racial discrimination from time to time or regularly, higher than Vietnamese, Filipino and Indian adults.

About six-in-ten Asian adults (58%) say they have ever experienced racial discrimination or been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity. This includes 53% of Asian adults who say they have experienced racial discrimination from time to time and 5% who say they experience it regularly.

Whether Asian adults say they have experienced racial discrimination varies across some demographic groups:

  • Ethnic origin: 67% of Korean adults say they have experienced racial discrimination, higher than the shares among Vietnamese (57%), Filipino (55%) and Indian (50%) adults.
  • Nativity: U.S.-born Asian adults are more likely than immigrants to say they have experienced racial discrimination, 65% versus 55%.
  • Immigrant generation: 69% of Asian immigrants who are 1.5 generation – those who came to the U.S before they were 18 years old – say they have ever experienced racial discrimination. About half of immigrants who traveled to the U.S. as adults (first generation) say the same.
  • Years in U.S.: 45% of immigrants who arrived in the U.S. in the last decade say they have experienced racial discrimination, compared with 60% of those who have been in the U.S. for more than 20 years. 12

A bar chart showing that about 4 in 10 Asian adults say that in day-to-day encounters with strangers, people have called them offensive names (37%). Additionally, 18% say people have acted as if they were dishonest, and 12% say people have acted as if they were afraid of them.

In the survey, we asked Asian adults whether they have experienced discrimination incidents in their daily interpersonal encounters with strangers.

  • 37% of Asian adults say strangers have called them offensive names.
  • 18% say strangers have acted as if they thought they were dishonest.
  • 12% say people have acted as if they were afraid of them.

Experiences with offensive name-calling

A bar chart showing that U.S.-born Asian adults are more likely than immigrants to say strangers have called them offensive names in day-to-day encounters. About 6 in 10 U.S.-born Asian adults say they have had this experience (57%), compared with 3 in 10 immigrant Asians.

About 37% of Asian adults say that in day-to-day encounters in the U.S., strangers have called them offensive names. Whether Asian adults say they have had this experience is associated with their experiences with immigration:  

  • 57% of U.S.-born Asian adults say strangers have called them offensive names. They are nearly twice as likely as Asian immigrants (30%) to say this.  
  • Among immigrants, 54% of Asian adults who immigrated as children (1.5 generation) say they have been called offensive names by strangers, while 20% of those who immigrated as adults (first generation) say the same.
  • 39% of immigrants who have been in the U.S. for more than two decades say they have been called offensive names. By contrast, 16% of those who immigrated 10 years ago or less say the same.

Responses also vary across other demographic groups:

  • Ethnic origin: 26% of Indian adults say strangers have called them offensive names, a lower share than other origin groups.
  • Regional origin: This pattern is also echoed among regional origin groups. Among South Asian adults overall, 29% say they have been called offensive names, compared with higher shares of East (41%) and Southeast (39%) Asian adults.
  • Age: About four-in-ten Asian adults under 50 years old say they have been called offensive names, compared with 33% of those 50 to 64 and 25% of those 65 and older.
  • Race: 50% of Asian adults who identify with two or more races – that is, those who identify as Asian in addition to at least one other race – say they have been called offensive names by strangers during day-to-day encounters. In comparison, 36% of those who are single race – those who identify as Asian and no other race – say the same.

In the survey, we also asked Asian Americans whether they have ever hidden part of their heritage – including cultural customs, food, clothing or religious practices – from non-Asians. Whether Asian Americans have hidden their culture is associated with their experiences of being called offensive names:

  • 60% of Asian adults who have hidden their heritage say they have also been called offensive names by strangers, compared with 32% of those who have not hidden part of their heritage.

In their own words: Asian Americans’ experiences of being called slurs and offensive names

A note to readers.

This section contains racial slurs and other terms that may be offensive to readers. Quotations have been lightly edited for grammar, spelling and clarity, but we have chosen not to censor language out of respect to those who agreed to share their personal experiences.

In the 2021 focus groups of Asian Americans, many participants talked about their experiences being bullied , harassed or called offensive names because of their race or ethnicity:

“As an Indian female, we tend to be very hairy … starting very young, so in sixth and seventh grade I was super hairy and so all the other girls would be like, ‘Oh my god, are you like shaving already? Or what’s going on with that?’ And then people would call me, ‘Sand N-word.’ A lot of just like, ‘Saddam’s daughter,’ just like those types of words.”

–U.S.-born woman of Indian origin in late 30s

“The first time that I can ever remember experiencing racism and discrimination was when I was 3. I was on the playground … and I was playing with this White girl and then her mom came … [and] was just like, ‘Don’t play with that chink,’ and I didn’t know how to take that at the time. I didn’t think anything of it because I didn’t know what it was and then, you know, it was put in my memory for the next god knows how many years and it wasn’t until I heard that word again, ironically watching [the 2000 film] ‘The Debut’ [with Dante Basco] … and I remember they called him ‘chink’ in there and I was like – it just unlocked a memory and that’s when I really started to … understand race and prejudice and discrimination.”

–U.S.-born woman of Filipino origin in late 20s

“I remember that I first came [to my neighborhood], there were not too many Chinese [people there]. [Kids] would shout behind my back: ‘Japs, Japs.’ They were about 8, 10 years old.”

–Immigrant man of Taiwanese origin in mid-70s (translated from Mandarin)

“We just have to deal with it more than the average person. I’ve been called DJ Isis, I’ve been called terrorist. … [O]n a day-to-day basis I feel welcome [in America]. This is my country. I’m here to live; I’m here to stay. But there are just those one or two instances that just make you feel like maybe it would have been better if I was somewhere else or maybe it would have been different if I was White or whatever. I feel like the only person that’s going to be 100% fully welcome is a White male and that’s the only person that’s going to be 100% welcome 100% of the time.”

–U.S.-born man of Indian descent in late 20s

“I had my assigned parking lot, and when a White man parked his car on my spot, I told him to move his car, he said ‘Ching Chang Chong’ to me and called the guard.”

–Immigrant man of Korean descent in late 40s (translated from Korean)

“When I was in college, I had a White girlfriend and … [her family was] very kind to me … but one time, we got invited to a party at her aunt and uncle’s house and … [her mom] says to me, ‘Can you help bring this food into the house?’ so … I picked up some trays of food, walked them into the house, and her aunt comes to the door and says to me, ‘No. Bring it around the back,’ … and then I could hear her in earshot say to the girlfriend’s mother, ‘Oh, these fucking spic caterers. What’s wrong with them? Don’t they know that the service entrance is in the rear?’ … I heard her mother correct her on the spot, but … that’s just one example of many, that much racism I’ve had when I’ve interracially dated. … I just shut my mouth. I didn’t retaliate. I didn’t want to make trouble but … I regret not having spoken up for myself.”

–U.S.-born man of Filipino descent in early 40s

Experiences with people treating them like they are dishonest or afraid of them

A bar chart showing 18% of Asian adults say strangers have acted like they are dishonest in day-to-day encounters. 12% of Asian adults say people have acted as if they are afraid of them. Across ethnic origin groups, 37% of those who belong to less populous Asian origins say they have had at least one of the two experiences, higher than the shares among the six largest Asian origin groups, which range from 12% to 24%.

About a quarter of Asian adults (23%) say they have had at least one encounter in which a stranger acted like they were dishonest or afraid of them. This includes 18% who say strangers have acted as if they were dishonest and 12% who say people have acted as if they were afraid of them.

There are differences across some Asian origin groups:

  • Ethnic origin: 37% of those who collectively belong to less populous Asian origin groups (those categorized as some “other” origin in this report) say they have had at least one of these experiences. This is higher than the shares among the six largest Asian origin groups.
  • Regional origin: 26% each of South and Southeast Asian adults say strangers have treated them at least one of these ways, compared with 18% of East Asian adults.

A bar chart showing that about 1 in 3 South Asian adults say they have been held back at a security checkpoint for secondary screening because of their race or ethnicity. Across ethnic origin groups, 33% of Indian adults say they had this experience, higher than the shares among Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, and Vietnamese adults who say the same.

Among Asian adults overall, 20% say they have been held back at a security checkpoint for a secondary screening because of their race or ethnicity.

Across regional origin groups, South Asian adults are the most likely to have this experience, with 35% saying so. This is about twice the shares among Southeast (15%) and East (14%) Asian adults who say the same.

Among South Asian adults, those born in the U.S. are more likely than immigrants to say they have had this experience. 13

A dot plot showing that Asian American Muslims are more likely than some other religious groups to say that they have been stopped at a security checkpoint for a secondary screening because of their race or ethnicity.

There are also key findings by religion among Asian Americans:

  • Asian American Muslims are more likely than some other religious groups – including Asian Hindus, those who are religiously unaffiliated, Christians and Buddhists – to say that they have been stopped at a security checkpoint for a secondary screening because of their race or ethnicity.
  • About a quarter of Asian Hindus also say they have had this experience.

Notably, South Asian adults make up a higher share of Asian Muslims and Hindus in the U.S. than other regional Asian origin groups.

In their own words: Asian Americans’ experiences with racial profiling at airports and other post-9/11 discrimination experiences

Some participants of South Asian origin in our 2021 focus groups of Asian Americans talked about facing discriminatory backlash after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Some participants talked about their experiences with being racially profiled by airport security:

“[Once, when I was flying back to the U.S., airport security] pulled me away from my family for three hours because I had a beard. … They didn’t believe my passport was real, [they thought] that I was trying to sneak in, and they pulled me away, no context of where they were taking me or anything and my mom was freaking out the whole time, and they interrogated me asking me a bunch of different questions … I was 17 at the time. … This happens every time I fly now, so I tell my friends to be two hours late to pick me up from an airport. I mean, this is not a joke. This is every time I travel. Every time, they do this to me.”

–U.S.-born man of Pakistani origin in early 30s

“My brother-in-law’s son was stopped because his beard had grown and they felt that he may be from some terrorist group. Hence, he was stopped for two hours and cross-questioned. When he came back home, his mother, my sister-in-law, told him to shave his beard and moustache clean as he looked exactly like ‘them.’”

–Immigrant woman of Indian origin in early 50s (translated from Hindi)

“[My family was] going to Pakistan and it was like a week after 9/11 for a wedding and … TSA or someone in a uniform looked at me like he wanted me to die. … That was one [memory] that really stood out and then the other was my schoolteacher. She was like, ‘It’s just not fair that we’re being punished for something that your people did,’ or something. … I was in first grade.”

–U.S.-born woman of Pakistani origin in mid-20s

Other participants talked about other physical attacks or ways they and their family had to change their behavior:

“When a friend of mine and I were on the way to work during the week the 9/11 incident had taken place, we were assaulted with eggs. … But other local people helped us, they chased after the car that attacked us with eggs. So, incidents like that have taken place.”

–Immigrant man of Sri Lankan origin in late 40s (translated from Sinhalese)

“After 9/11, things changed a lot. I feel like things changed for a lot of us and I remember my parents putting out American flags everywhere – outside the house, on the mailbox, like wherever they could stick them. And even now, I do get … constantly pulled over when you’re in line at the airport, by TSA and at this point I just know I’m going to get pulled over. … I make my way leisurely to that section because I know that they’re going to profile me.”

–U.S.-born woman of Indian origin in early 30s

“[W]hen I was a kid … one of my neighbors ran their car into our house. It was just the weirdest thing ever because … their garage is aligned to the side of our house and then they crashed the side of our house and then we asked them, ‘How did this happen?’ You don’t just run into someone’s house, especially when there’s grass and like a fence in the way. They’re like, ‘Oh yeah. It’s my son. We’re just teaching him to drive. He did it by accident.’ … [T]o this day, we knew it was like more racially motivated just because we’re the only Pakistani family in the neighborhood, but they deemed it an accident.”

–U.S.-born man of Pakistani origin in early 20s

Backlash against Muslims, Sikhs, Arabs and South Asians post-9/11

Following the Sept. 11 attacks, discrimination against Muslims, Sikhs, Arabs, South Asians and others perceived to be part of these groups in the U.S. increased. Amid concern about national security among government officials and the general public alike, there were significant changes in immigration law and policy , including the formation the Department of Homeland Security, the creation of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System and the passage of the USA/PATRIOT Act , among others. 

Muslim Americans faced increased scrutiny and surveillance . Other religious and ethnic groups also became targets of discrimination incidents and hate crimes, including the 2012 mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin .

Anti-Muslim sentiment and scrutiny has continued in recent years and continues to touch the lives of Muslims, Sikhs, Arabs and South Asians living in the U.S. Previous Pew Research Center surveys have found that from 2007 to 2017, increasing shares of Muslim Americans said they have personally experienced discrimination. And among the American public, people held more negative views of Muslims and Islam after the Sept. 11 attacks.

A bar chart showing that about 1 in 10 Asian adults say they have been stopped, searched or questioned by the police because of their race or ethnicity. Asian adults who identify with two or more races are more likely to say this experience applies to them, compared with Asian adults who are single race (18% vs. 10%).

About one-in-ten Asian adults (11%) say they have been stopped, searched or questioned by the police because of their race or ethnicity. 14

Whether Asian Americans say they have had this experience varies somewhat across demographic groups:

A dot plot showing Asian Americans' encounters with police that are racially motivated vary by perceived racial identity. Compared with adults who are perceived as Chinese or Asian, larger shares of Asian adults who are perceived as a non-White and non-Asian race or ethnicity have had this experience.

  • Ethnic origin: 17% of Asian adults who belong to less populous origin groups say they have had an encounter with the police because of their race or ethnicity. This is higher than the shares among Korean (8%), Vietnamese (7%), Chinese (7%) and Japanese (7%) adults who say the same.  
  • Regional origin: 14% of South and 13% of Southeast Asian adults say they have had this experience, while about half that share of East Asian adults (7%) say the same.
  • Income: 17% of Asian adults who have a family income under $30,000 say they have been stopped, searched or questioned by the police because of their race or ethnicity, compared with about one-in-ten adults with higher incomes.
  • Race: 18% of Asian adults who identify with two or more races say they have had this experience, compared with 10% of Asian adults who are single race.

There are also some findings based on how others perceive Asian Americans’ racial or ethnic identity:

  • About one-in-ten Asian adults who are perceived as Chinese or Asian say they have been stopped, searched or questioned by the police because of their race or ethnicity.
  • A somewhat larger share of Asian adults who are perceived as some other non-White and non-Asian race or ethnicity say the same.

A bar chart showing about one-in-five Asian adults (22%) say they experienced at least one of three forms of workplace discrimination because of their race or ethnicity. 15% say they have been turned down for a job; 14% say they have been denied a promotion; 5% say they have been fired from a job.

About one-in-five Asian adults (22%) say they have experienced at least one of three forms of workplace discrimination because of their race or ethnicity: 15

  • 15% of Asian Americans say they have been turned down for a job.
  • 14% say they have been denied a promotion.
  • 5% say they have been fired from a job.

Asian Americans’ experiences with race-based workplace discrimination vary across some demographic groups:

  • Ethnic origin: Japanese adults are the least likely to say they have experienced at least one of these three incidents of racial discrimination in the workplace. Compared with other origin groups, they are less likely to say they have been turned down for a job (5%) or denied a promotion (4%).
  • Immigrant generation: Among those born in the U.S., 27% of third- or higher-generation Asian Americans say they have experienced at least one of three incidents of workplace discrimination, while 17% among the second generation say the same. About 13% of those in third or higher generations say they have been fired from a job because of their race or ethnicity, compared with 5% of second-generation Asian adults who say the same.
  • Gender: Asian men are slightly more likely than Asian women to say they have been denied a promotion because of their race or ethnicity (16% vs. 11%). On the other two measures, nearly identical shares of men and women say they have had the experience.

A bar chart showing that Asian adults' experiences with workplace discrimination differ by ethnic origin, gender, and education. A slightly higher share of men (16%) say they have been denied a promotion because of their race or ethnicity than Asian women (11%).

Qualitative research findings related to Asian immigrants’ challenges with language and culture in the workplace

In a December 2022 Pew Research Center report , we explored Asian immigrants’ experiences with navigating language barriers in the United States. The following findings are related to some of the survey findings on Asian immigrants’ experiences of discrimination in the workplace:

  • Many participants pointed to their difficulties speaking in English as a major reason they struggled to find employment. For example, many discussed struggling in interviews or feeling like they did not receive callbacks due to their language ability.
  • Some participants shared that once employed, language barriers slowed their professional success and advancement.
  • Participants also noted that their accents when speaking English affected how they were treated at work, including having their co-workers or customers treat them differently or missing out on opportunities.

Four-in-ten Asian adults say they have received poorer service than other people at restaurants or stores. This varies somewhat across demographic groups:

A bar chart showing that 40% of Asian adults say they have received poorer services at restaurants and stores in day-to-day encounters. A higher share of the U.S. born (48%) say they have had this experience than immigrants (37%).

  • Ethnic origin: 48% of those who belong to less populous origin groups say they have had this experience, compared with smaller shares of Chinese (37%) and Vietnamese (31%) adults.
  • Nativity: 48% of U.S.-born adults say they have received poorer service, while 37% of immigrants say the same.
  • Immigrant generation: 49% of Asian adults who are the children of immigrant parents (second generation) and 46% of Asian adults who immigrated as children (1.5 generation) say they have received poorer service at restaurants or stores. Among third- or higher-generation Asian Americans, 42% have had this experience, as have 34% of the first generation.
  • Language: 46% of Asian adults who primarily speak English say they have had this experience, compared with 39% those who are bilingual and 26% of those who primarily speak their Asian origin language.
  • Party: 45% of Asian adults who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party say they have received poorer service, higher than the share among Republicans and Republican leaners (32%).
  • Education: More than four-in-ten Asian adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher say this has happened to them, compared with roughly one-third of those with some college experience or less.

A bar chart showing that about 13% of Asian adults say they have experienced at least one form of racial discrimination in their neighborhood. 12% say neighbors have made life difficult for them or their family. 4% say they have been prevented from moving into a neighborhood by a landlord or realtor because of their race or ethnicity.

About one-in-ten Asian adults (12%) say neighbors have made life difficult for them or their family because of their race or ethnicity. And 4% say they have been prevented from moving into a neighborhood by a landlord or realtor for the same reason. 16

Asian Americans’ experiences of housing and social discrimination in neighborhoods differs across some demographic factors:

  • Nativity: 16% of U.S.-born Asian adults say neighbors have made life difficult for them or their family, compared with 10% of Asian immigrants.
  • Immigrant generation: Third-generation Asian Americans (9%) are more likely than the second generation and all Asian immigrants to say they have been prevented from moving into a neighborhood by a landlord or realtor because of their race or ethnicity.
  • Income: 9% of Asian adults with family incomes of less than $30,000 say they have been prevented from moving into a neighborhood by a landlord or realtor due to their race or ethnicity, compared with about 5% or fewer among those who make $30,000 or more.
  • Other research suggests that place of birth, age at immigration and length of time in the U.S. are linked to perceptions of discrimination. Previous studies have found that those born in the U.S. report experiencing discrimination at higher levels than those who are foreign born; and that those who immigrated at a younger age and have lived in the U.S. for longer periods perceive discrimination at higher levels. For more, refer to Brondolo, E., R. Rahim, S. Grimaldi, A. Ashraf, N. Bui and J. Schwartz, 2015, “ Place of Birth Effects on Self-Reported Discrimination: Variations by Type of Discrimination, ” International Journal of Intercultural Relations; and Wong, J. and K. Ramakrishnan, 2021, “ Anti-Asian Hate Incidents and the Broader Landscape of Racial Bias, ” AAPI Data . ↩
  • For more information on the shares of South Asian adults who have been held back at a security checkpoint for a secondary screening because of their race or ethnicity by demographic groups (including by ethnic origin, nativity, age, gender and party), refer to the Appendix . ↩
  • A 2019 Pew Research Center survey asked U.S. adults across racial and ethnic groups a slightly different question about their experiences with the police because of their race or ethnicity. Across major racial and ethnic groups, Black adults were the most likely to say they have been unfairly stopped by the police because of their race or ethnicity. White adults were the least likely to say they have had this experience. ↩
  • A 2019 Pew Research Center survey asked U.S. adults across racial and ethnic groups a different, but related, question about their experiences with workplace discrimination because of their race or ethnicity. Across major racial and ethnic groups, Black adults were the most likely to say they have been treated unfairly by an employer in hiring, pay or promotion because of their race or ethnicity. White adults were the least likely to say they have had this experience. ↩
  • There is a long history of banning Asians from land ownership in the United States. Alien land laws emerged in some states in 1913. Most laws were repealed in the 1950s, though the last law was not repealed until 2018 in Florida. There has been recent legislation aiming to revive these laws in some states in 2023. ↩

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Ex-Ante Capacity Building in Social Infrastructure to Improve Post-Disaster Recovery and Community Well-being

Restoration of civil infrastructure is not equivalent to the full recovery of a community from natural hazards. Considering the recovery of only civil infrastructure in quantifying the disaster recovery of a community does not allow for capturing the long-term socio-economic impacts of natural hazards (e.g., stress, anxiety, unemployment, etc.). The role of having a robust social infrastructure in facilitating disaster recovery and addressing both short-term and long-term impacts of natural hazards needs to be explored. Social infrastructure is defined as formal entities (e.g., governmental organizations, community centers, NGOs, religious centers, etc.) as well as informal social ties such as individuals and households that assist in post-disaster recovery and alleviate the distress caused by natural hazards. Social infrastructure not only addresses post-disaster tangible needs such as shelter, food, and water but also helps alleviate disaster-induced socio-economic distress in communities.

This research focuses on identifying the capacity needs of the social infrastructure to facilitate disaster recovery (measured using community well-being as the recovery metric), while integrating the cascading impacts from other affected inter-dependent infrastructure systems (i.e., civil, civic, cyber, financial, environmental, and educational). Using community well-being, which is defined as the state in which the needs of a community are fulfilled, allows for incorporating both short-term and long-term impacts of natural hazards.

The research starts with modeling post-disaster community well-being using the indicators selected from existing community well-being models. After the selection of indicators, several data sources such as phone call, survey, and FEMA support programs data were used to 1) verify the structure of the community well-being model, and 2) quantify post-disaster community well-being. Chapter 3 elaborates on this process and its outcome, which is a framework for quantifying post-disaster community well-being based on disaster helpline and survey data.

Chapter 4 introduces a Bayesian Network modeling framework for quantifying the role of social infrastructure services in the form tangible, emotional, and informational support in enhancing post-disaster community well-being. The Bayesian model was then used to propose capacity building strategies for increasing the robustness of social infrastructure and its supporting infrastructure to foster post-disaster community well-being in the face of future hurricanes.

Intellectual Merit : the proposed research is unique in its kind as it leverages social and psychological well-being models and theories to characterize the role of social infrastructure in the recovery of communities from natural disasters. The research contributes to infrastructure and urban resilience models by considering the role of social infrastructure services using community well-being as the recovery metric. It also contributes to social sciences by introducing 2-1-1 disaster helpline data as an inexpensive and timely replacement for multiple rounds of survey questionnaires for quantifying community well-being.

Broader Impacts : the proposed model and the obtained results can serve as an Ex-Ante Capacity building tool for decision-makers to predict the status of communities in the face of future natural hazards and propose capacity building strategies to have higher post-disaster support, and thereby, community well-being.

CRISP Type 2/Collaborative Research: Critical Transitions in the Resilience and Recovery of Interdependent Social and Physical Networks

Directorate for Engineering

Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy
  • Civil Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Additional committee member 2, additional committee member 3, additional committee member 4, additional committee member 5, usage metrics.

  • Civil engineering not elsewhere classified
  • Natural hazards
  • Infrastructure engineering and asset management
  • Poverty, inclusivity and wellbeing

CC BY 4.0


  1. ️ Research paper chapter 1-3. Writing Chapter 3 of Your Dissertation

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    chapter 1 3 of research

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  1. Class 9 English 1.3.3 Page 12 & 13


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    There are certainly times when the order of the steps may be modified, but researchers typically follow the same process for each research study they complete regardless of the research topic (as depicted in Figure 2.1 in Chapter 2). Very simply, a research problem or question is identified, and a methodology is selected, developed, and ...

  24. Module 3 Chapter 1: From Research Questions to Research Approaches

    The fields of applied social science and evaluation are among those which have shown the greatest popularity and uptake of mixed methods research designs" (Cameron & Miller, 2007, p. 3). Mixed-methods research approaches are used to address in a single study the acknowledged limitations of both quantitative and qualitative approaches.

  25. Chapter 1-3

    Chapter 1 INTRODUCTION. Context and Rationale The dynamic 21st-century education landscape coupled with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippine education system is constantly seeking innovative ways to reach out and address the needs of the diverse learners. Since the sudden implementation of self- learning modules, the learners experienced a learning gap and challenges in each ...

  26. Chapter 1 3 Research Proposal

    This chapter includes the literature review related to the research topic of correlation of sleep pattern to student engagement of level 3 Nursing Students. Moreover, this part focused on the overview of sleep quality, student engagement, and its relationship.

  27. Leaving No One Behind in Research, and the Protection ...

    We carried out non-clinical health and ethics research, and leave it to other researchers and/or future studies to determine whether our findings may also be relevant to clinical research. How the remaining chapters contribute to ameliorating the protection-inclusion dilemma is set out in Sect. 1.3.

  28. 3. Asian Americans and the 'model minority' stereotype

    Additionally, academic research has investigated how the pressures of the model minority stereotype can impact Asian Americans' mental health and academic performance. Critics of the myth have also pointed to its impact on other racial and ethnic groups, especially Black Americans. ... 43% of 1.5-generation Asian adults say using the term ...

  29. 1. Asian Americans' experiences with ...

    In their own words: Key findings from qualitative research on Asian Americans and discrimination experiences; 1. Asian Americans' experiences with discrimination in their daily lives. Discrimination in interpersonal encounters with strangers; Racial discrimination at security checkpoints; Encounters with police because of race or ethnicity

  30. Ex-Ante Capacity Building in Social Infrastructure to Improve Post

    Chapter 3 elaborates on this process and its outcome, which is a framework for quantifying post-disaster community well-being based on disaster helpline and survey data.Chapter 4 introduces a Bayesian Network modeling framework for quantifying the role of social infrastructure services in the form tangible, emotional, and informational support ...