Researching Crime and Justice: Tales from the Field

Researching Crime and Justice: Tales from the Field

Researching Crime and Justice: Tales from the Field

Researching Crime and Justice: Tales from the Field


This book provides an introduction to research and some of the methods in the field of crime and justice and related areas, including police, prisons and criminal justice policy making.

Less a dry 'how to' book, it is concerned rather to provide a wide-ranging discussion that illustrates the kind of research that has been done in particular areas, the findings of previous studies, the pitfalls of 'real life' research (and some potential solutions) and the range of possible research methods and approaches - both qualitative and quantitative. It shows how appropriate methods are chosen for particular studies and explores the theoretical underpinnings of the studies, including how and why researchers use theory; the political and ethical issues; and the role of emotions such as fear and danger in researching the field of crime and criminal justice.

Key features include:

  • First hand interviews with leading 'hands on' academics
  • Examples, excerpts and sources of original research
  • Analysis of the theories, methods and outcomes of previous research

Throughout the book there is an emphasis on the often troublesome (and often ignored) relationship between the topic of study, desired outcomes and suitable methods, with a wide range of illustrative case studies. Here the approach is practical - pointing out the different approaches various studies have used and how their outcome is often determined by their choice of methods. The book also reflects on the philosophies of research and includes discussions about the way the choice of methods will be reflected in the findings and vice versa (which seems obvious but is often forgotten).

Researching Crime and Justice: Tales from the Field will be an essential source of inspiration and ideas for criminology students and other researchers on crime and justice.


This book has arisen from numerous discussions about the gap between the ‘realities’ of research and the practicalities of finishing (or even starting) a project. It has come from a growing realisation that while many of us can ‘talk a good proposal’ the actual doing of the research can be a different matter. As a result, many of the examples in the book are based on discussions I have had with colleagues and students past and present, and experiences over the past ten years or so, especially with Dick Hobbs, John Clarke and Janet Newman. Particular thanks are due to them because the discussions and examples in the text are largely based upon ‘real life’ experiences of mine or others. In fact, this is where the book is located as something slightly different from dry ‘how to’ text books because it pivots on a number of interviews with ‘real life’ researchers – people who actually go out and get their hands dirty, collecting original data or developing new ideas about the world of crime and justice.

Throughout the book I have developed these discussions from the interviews with academic researchers who have experience in a range of crime and criminal justice fields in order to elicit their advice. In the course of a series of short interviews with key players in current criminology I have tried to relate the main points they raise about research in the ‘real world-view’. The accounts are not examples of how to do the perfect project and the interviewees do not claim to be experts on every field of criminology. What is worked through in these conversations, reproduced throughout the book, aims to provide a fly-on-the-wall experience for others who might be curious about why or how researchers and colleagues choose the methods they do. As part of these accounts I have tried to give a flavour of a ‘warts and all’ description of research projects the respondents have carried out in order to try to learn from the mistakes and pitfalls of others in the attempt to avoid them for ourselves.

Due to the central importance of these interviews in the book I would first like to thank the interviewees in order of appearance: John Muncie, Ben Bowling, Laura Piacentini, Sandra Walklate, Lynn Hancock, Rob Hornsby and Simon Winlow. It goes without saying that without them this . . .

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