Curry College Methods in Social Research Discussion

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This week we’ve been discussing the use of experimentation to examine criminal justice topics. I’m sure by this point you are sick of reading about and hearing me talk about the strengths of this approach. However, the importance of this approach cannot be overstated. Since the goal of any criminal justice policy is to have a positive effect on some social phenomenon, this form of research is invaluable in being able to determine the true impact of any policy. In fact, as you well know, we, as a nation, are moving more towards evidence-based policy-making. Policies (whether continuing old ones or implementing new ones) are expensive. We, as tax-payers, want to know that our money is being put into policies that work. Therefore, the use of evaluations, which, in the end are simply very specific forms of experiments (both true and quasi) are become more and more popular.

At the same time, though, the power of experiments is sometimes overstated. When we are dealing with an experiment that can be conducted in a lab in a short period of time (which, is common in the field of psychology), the cause-and-effect relationship can be easily established. This, unfortunately, is rarely the case when it comes to research in criminal justice. Most experiments in our field take place in the real world and over an extended period of time. These two elements (the setting and the time-frame) make our experiments particularly vulnerable to several threats to causal validity (e.g. differential attrition, history effects, maturation, etc.). Therefore, I would like you to spend this discussion considering these potential threats to experiments in criminal justice.

For this reason, I want you to discuss one threat to casual validity of a specific experiment. There is no need to search for an example of an experiment. Instead, you should use what we’ve already discussed (i.e. The Kansas City Preventative Patrol Experiment or one of the experiments discussed in the Maxfield and Babbie text). However, if you know of a different example or want to find one I encourage you to do so. Just make sure to briefly summarize the experiment so the class can follow along. Once you have settled on the experiment you would like to examine you should discuss one possible threat to causal validity that could have potentially impacted the results. You should make sure to discuss the exact way this threat could have affected the results of the experiment. Here are some additional questions you may want to consider:

  • Were the researchers aware of this threat?
  • How did they try to deal with this threat?
  • Is there any additional steps that could have been taken to avoid this threat

Your initial post should be 300 words.

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