3. Rate four criminological journal articles for overall quality of the research and for effectiveness of the writing and data displays. Discuss how each could have been improved.
Reporting Research Results
Research Report Goals
Advance Scientific Knowledge
Shape Social Policy
Organize Social Action—Participatory
Case Study: Seeking Higher Education
Dialogue With Research Subjects
On Writing Research
Research Report Types
Student Papers and Theses
The Thesis Committee
An Advisory Committee
Ethics and Reporting
Communicating With the Public
The goal of research is not just to discover something but to communicate that discovery to a larger
audience—other social scientists, government officials, your teachers, the general public—perhaps several
of these audiences. Whatever the study’s particular outcome, if the research report enables the
intended audience to comprehend the results and learn from them, the research can be judged a success.
If the intended audience is not able to learn about the study’s results, the research should be judged
a failure no matter how expensive the research, how sophisticated its design, or how much of yourself
you invested in it.
This conclusion may seem obvious, and perhaps a bit unnecessary. After all, you may think that
all researchers write up their results for other people to read. But the fact is that many research projects
fail to produce a research report. Sometimes the problem is that the research is poorly designed
to begin with and cannot be carried out in a satisfactory manner; sometimes unanticipated difficulties
derail a viable project. But too often the researcher just never gets around to writing a report. And
then there are many research reports that are very incomplete or poorly written or that speak to only
one of several interested audiences. The failure may not be complete, but the project’s full potential
is not achieved.
The stage of reporting research results is also the point at which the need for new research is identified.
It is the time when, so to speak, “the rubber hits the road”—when we have to make our research
make sense to others. To whom will our research be addressed? How should we present our results to
them? Should we seek to influence how our research report is used?
The primary goals of this chapter are to guide you in comparing writing worthwhile reports of your
own, and communicating with the public about research. This chapter also gives particular attention to
the writing process itself and points out how that process can differ when writing up qualitative versus
quantitative research. We will conclude by considering some of the ethical issues unique to the reporting
process, with special attention to the problem of plagiarism.
RESEARCH REPORT GOALS
The research report will present research findings and interpretations in a way that reflects some combination
of the researcher’s goals, the research sponsor’s goals, the concerns of the research subjects,
and perhaps the concerns of a wider anticipated readership. Understanding the goals of these different
groups will help the researcher begin to shape the final report even at the start of the research. In
designing a proposal and in negotiating access to a setting for the research, commitments often must
be made to produce a particular type of report, or at least cover certain issues in the final report. As the
research progresses, feedback about the research from its participants, sponsoring agencies, collaborators,
or other interested partiesmay suggest the importance of focusing on particular issues in the final
report. Social researchers traditionally have tried to distance themselves from the concerns of such
interested parties, paying attention only to what is needed to advance scientific knowledge. But in recent
years, some social scientists have recommended bringing these interested parties into the research and
reporting process itself.
Advance Scientific Knowledge
Most social science research reports are directed to other social scientists working in the area of study,
so they reflect orientations and concerns that are shared within this community of interest. The traditional
scientific approach encourages a research goal to advance scientific knowledge by providing
reports to other scientists. This approach also treats value considerations as beyond the scope of
science: “An empirical science cannot tell anyone what he should do but rather what he can do and under
certain circumstances what he wishes to do” (Weber 1949:54).
The idea is that developing valid knowledge about howsociety is organized or howwe live our lives does
not tell us how society should be organized or how we should live our lives. There should, as a result, be a
strict separation between the determination of empirical facts and the evaluation of these facts as satisfactory
or unsatisfactory (Weber 1949). Social scientistsmust not ignore value considerations,which are viewed
as a legitimate basis for selecting a research problem to study. After the research is over and a report has
beenwritten,many scientists also consider it acceptable to encourage government officials or private organizations
to implement the findings. During a research project, however, value considerations are to be held
CHAPTER 13 Reporting Research Results 425
Shape Social Policy
As we highlighted in our discussion of applied research in Chapter 11,many social scientists seek to influence
social policy through their writing. By now, you have been exposed to several such examples in this
text, including all the evaluation research (Chapter 11). These particular studies, likemuch policy-oriented
social science research, are similar to those that aim strictly to increase knowledge. In fact, these studies
might even be considered contributions to knowledge first and to social policy debate second. What distinguishes
the reports of these studies fromstrictly academic reports is their attention to policy implications.
Other social scientists who seek to influence social policy explicitly reject the traditional scientific,
rigid distinction between facts and values (Sjoberg and Nett 1968). Bellah et al. (1985) have instead proposed
amodel of “social science as public philosophy,” in which social scientists focus explicit attention
on achieving a more just society:
Social science makes assumptions about the nature of persons, the nature of society, and the
relation between persons and society. It also, whether it admits it or not, makes assumptions
about good persons and a good society and considers how far these conceptions are embodied
in our actual society.
Social science as public philosophy, by breaking through the iron curtain between the social
sciences and the humanities, becomes a form of social self-understanding or selfinterpretation.
. . . By probing the past as well as the present, by looking at “values” as much as
at “facts,” such a social science is able to make connections that are not obvious and to ask
difficult questions. (P. 301)
This perspective suggests more explicit concern with public policy implications when reporting
research results. But it is important to remember that we all are capable of distorting our research and
our interpretations of research results to correspond to our own value preferences. The temptation to see
what we want to see is enormous, and research reports cannot be deemed acceptable unless they avoid
Organize Social Action—Participatory Action Research
For the same reasons that value questions are traditionally set apart from the research process, many
social scientists consider the application of research a nonscientific concern.WilliamFooteWhyte, whose
Street Corner Society (1943) study you encountered in Chapter 9, has criticized this belief and proposed
an alternative research and reporting strategy he calls participatory action research (PAR). Whyte
(1991:285) argues that social scientists must get “out of the academic rut” and engage in applied
research to develop better understanding of social phenomena.
In PAR, the researcher involves as active participants somemembers of the setting studied. Both the organizationalmembers
and the researcher are assumed to want to develop valid conclusions, to bring unique
insights, and to desire change, but Whyte (1991) believed that these objectives were more likely to be
obtained if the researcher collaborated activelywith the persons he studied. PAR can bring researchers into
closer contactwith participants in the research setting through groups that discuss and plan research steps
and then take steps to implement research findings. Stephen Kemmis and RobinMcTaggart (2005:563–68)
summarize the key features of PAR research as “a spiral of self-reflecting cycles” involving
• planning a change,
• acting and observing the process and consequences of the change,
426 THE PRACTICE OF RESEARCH IN CRIMINOLOGY AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
• reflecting on these processes and consequences,
• replanning, and
• acting and observing again.
In contrast with the formal reporting of results at the end of a research project, these “cycles” make
research reporting an ongoing part of the research process.
Case Study: Seeking Higher Education for Inmates
While prison populations in the United States have been significantly increasing, access to college programs
within prisons has been essentially eliminated. Primarily because of the “tough on crime” policies of the
1990s, by 1995, only 8 of the existing 350 college programs in prisons remained open nationwide (Torre and
Fine 2005). To remedy this situation, Torre and Fine became involved in participatory action research to facilitate
a college and college-bound program at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility (BHCF), a maximumsecurity
women’s prison in New York. To conduct a study of the effects of the program, Michelle Fine was
the principal investigator alongwith four prisoner-researchers and four researchers fromthe Graduate Center
of the City University of New York. This “participatory research team” asked several questions: (a)Who are
thewomen in the college program? (b)What is the impact of the college experience on inmate students and
their children? (c)What is the impact of the college experience on the prison environment? (d)What is the
impact of the college experience beyond college on recidivism? and (e)What is the cost of such a program
to taxpayers? The researchers used a triangulatedmethodology employing quantitative analysis of recidivism
rates and costs of the program along with in-depth interviews with the participants; focus groups with
inmates, faculty, children, and college presidents; and surveys of faculty who taught in the program.
Although not using a randomized experimental design, Torre and Fine along with their co-investigators
tracked participants in the college programafter release and found thatwomenwho had not participated in
the programwere four timesmore likely to be returned to custody than women who participated.
The narratives from the interviews with college inmates also illuminated the positive benefits of the
education. One inmate college student said, “Because when you take somebody that feels that they’re not
gonna amount to anything, and you put themin an environment, like, when you’re in college it takes you
away from the prison, . . . it’s like you’re opening your mind to a whole different experience” (Torre and
Fine 2005:582). The positive impact of college on the inmates was also transferred to their children. The
cost-benefit analysis of the program indicated that the savings based on decreased recidivism rates for
those who attended the college far outweighed the initial cost of the program itself. In sum, with just a
small grant from a private foundation, the participatory action research team brought together universities,
prisoners, churches, community organizations, and prison administrators to resurrect a college at
BHCF. The authors concluded, “Key elements of this program include broad-based community involvement,
strong prisoner participation in design and governance, and the support of the prison administration”
(p. 591). A full report of this research can be found at http://web.gc.cuny.edu/che/changingminds.html.
As you can see, participatory action research has the potential to be life changing for all involved!
Dialogue With Research Subjects
Guba and Lincoln (1989) have carried the notion of involving research subjects and others in the design
and reporting of research one step further. What they call the constructivist paradigm is a methodology
that emphasizes the importance of exploring how different stakeholders in a social setting construct
their beliefs. This approach rejects the assumption that there is a reality around us to be studied and
CHAPTER 13 Reporting Research Results 427
reported on. Instead, social scientists operating in the constructivist paradigm try to develop a consensus
among participants in some social process about how to understand the focus of inquiry, a program
that is often evaluated. A research report will then highlight different views of the social program and
explain how a consensus can be reached.
The constructivist approach provides a usefulway of thinking about howto bestmake sense of the complexity
and subjectivity of the socialworld.Other researcherswrite reports intended to influence public policy,
and often their findings are ignored. Such neglectwould be less common if social researchers gavemore
attention to the different meanings attached by participants to the same events, in the spirit of constructivist
case reports. The philosophy of this approach is also similar to the utilization-based evaluation research
approach advanced by Patton (1997; see Chapter 11) that involves all stakeholders in the research process.
ON WRITING RESEARCH
The goal of research is not just to discover something but also to communicate that discovery to a larger
audience: other social scientists, government officials, your teachers, the general public—perhaps several
of these audiences. Whatever the study’s particular outcome, if the intended audience for the research
comprehends the results and learns fromthem, the research can be judged a success. If the intended audience
does not learn about the study’s results, the research should be judged a failure—no matter how
expensive the research, how sophisticated its design, or how much you (or others) invested in it.
Successful research reporting requires both good writing and a proper publication outlet. We will first
review guidelines for successful writing before we look at particular types of research publications.
Consider the following principles formulated by experiencedwriters (Booth, Colomb, andWilliams 1995):
• Respect the complexity of the task and don’t expect to write a polished draft in a linear
fashion. Your thinking will develop as you write, causing you to reorganize and rewrite.
• Leave enough time for dead ends, restarts, revisions, and so on, and accept the fact that you
will discard much of what you write.
• Write as fast as you comfortably can. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, and so on until you
are polishing things up.
• Ask anyone whom you trust for reactions to what you have written.
• Write as you go along, so you have notes and report segments drafted even before you focus
on writing the report.
It is important to outline a report before writing it, but neither the report’s organization nor the first
written draft should be considered fixed. As you write, you will get new ideas about how to organize the
report. Try themout. As you review the first draft, you will seemany ways to improve your writing. Focus
particularly on how to shorten and clarify your statements.Make sure that each paragraph concerns only
one topic. Remember the golden rule of good writing: Writing is revising!
You can ease the burden of report writing in several ways:
• Draw on the research proposal and on project notes.
• Use a word processing program on a computer to facilitate reorganizing and editing.
• Seek criticism from friends, teachers, and other research consumers before turning in the final
428 THE PRACTICE OF RESEARCH IN CRIMINOLOGY AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
We often find it helpful to use what is called reverse outlining: After you have written a first complete
draft, outline it on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis, ignoring the actual section headings you used.
See if the paper you wrote actually fits the outline you planned. How could the organization be
improved? Most important, leave yourself enough time so that you can revise, several times if possible,
before turning in the final draft. Revision is essential until complete clarity is achieved.
Formore suggestions aboutwriting, see Becker (1986), Booth et al. (1995), Cuba (2002), Strunk andWhite
(2000), and Turabian (1996). Andwe don’t need to point out that students (and professional researchers) often
leave final papers (and reports) until the last possibleminute (often for understandable reasons, including other
coursework and job or family responsibilities). But be forewarned: The last-minute approach does notwork for
RESEARCH REPORT TYPES
Research projects designed to produce student papers and theses, applied research reports, and academic
articles all have unique features that will influence the final research report. For example, student
papers are written for a particular professor or for a thesis committee and often are undertaken with
almost no financial resources and in the face of severe time constraints. Applied research reports are written
for an organization or agency that usually also has funded the research and has expectations for a
particular type of report. Journal articles are written for the larger academic community and will not be
published until they are judged acceptable by some representatives of that community (e.g., after the article
has gone through extensive peer review).
These unique features do not really match up so neatly with the specific types of research products.
For example, a student paper that is based on a research project conducted in collaboration with a work
organizationmay face some constraints for a project designed to produce an applied research report. An
academic article may stem from an applied research project conducted for a government agency. An
applied research report often can be followed by an academic article on the same topic. In fact, one
research study may lead to all three types of research reports, as students write course papers or theses
for professors who write both academic articles and applied research reports.
Student Papers and Theses
What is most distinctive about a student research paper or thesis is the audience for the final product: a
professor or, for a thesis, a committee of professors. In light of this, it is important for you to seek feedback
early and often about the progress of your research and about your professor’s expectations for the
final paper. Securing approval of a research proposal is usually the first step, but it should not be the last
occasion for seeking advice prior to writing the final paper. Do not become too anxious for guidance, however.
Professors require research projects in part so that their students can work through, at least somewhat
independently, the many issues they confront. A great deal of insight into the research process can
be gained this way. So balance your requests for advice with some independent decision making.
Most student research projects can draw on few resources beyond the student’s own time and effort,
so it is important that the research plan not be overly ambitious. Keep the paper deadline in mind when
planning the project, and remember that almost every researcher tends to underestimate the time
required to carry out a project.
CHAPTER 13 Reporting Research Results 429
Pooling your resources with those of several students in a group project can make it possible to collect
much more data but can lead to other problems. Each student’s role should be clarified at the outset and
written into the research proposal as a formal commitment. Group members should try to help each
other out, rather than competing to do the least work possible or to receive the most recognition.
Complaints about other group members should be made to the professor when things just cannot be
worked out among groupmembers. Each groupmember should have a clear area of responsibility in the
final report, and one may want to serve as the final editor.
The Thesis Committee
Students who are preparing a paper for a committee, usually during the senior year of a B.A. or at the
M.A. or Ph.D. level, must be prepared to integrate the multiple perspectives and comments of committee
members into a plan for a coherent final report. (The thesis committee chair should be the primary
guide in this process; careful selection of faculty to serve on the committee is also important.) As much
as possible, committeemembers should have complementary areas of expertise that are each important
for the research project: perhaps onemethodologist, one specialist in the primary substantive area of the
thesis, and one specialist in a secondary area. Theses using data collected by service agencies or other
organizations often benefit if an organizational representative is on the committee.
It is very important that you work with your committee members in an ongoing manner, both individually
and collectively. In fact, it is vitally important to have a group meeting with all committee
members at the beginning of the project to ensure everyone on the committee supports the research plan.
Doing this will avoid obstacles that arise due to miscommunication later in the research process.
It is the peer reviewprocess thatmakes preparation of an academic journal articlemost unique. Similar
to a grant review, the journal’s editor sends submitted articles to two or three experts, peers, who are asked
whether the paper should be accepted more or less as is, revised and then resubmitted, or rejected.
Reviewers also provide comments, sometimes quite lengthy, to explain their decision and to guide any
required revisions. The process is an anonymous one atmost journals; reviewers are not told the author’s
name, and the author is not told the reviewers’ names. Although the journal editor has the final say, editors’
decisions are normally based on the reviewers’ comments.
This peer review process must be anticipated in designing the final report. Peer reviewers are not
pulled out of a hat. They are expert in the field or fields represented in the paper and usually have published
articles themselves in that field. It is critical that the author be familiar with the research literature
and be able to present the research findings as a unique contribution to that literature. Inmost cases,
this hurdle is much harder to jump with journal articles than with student papers or applied research
reports. In fact, most leading journals have a rejection rate of over 90%, so that hurdle is quite high
indeed. Of course, there is also a certain luck of the draw in peer review. One set of two or three reviewersmay
be inclined to reject an article that another set of reviewers would accept (see the next case study).
But in general, the anonymous peer review process results in higher-quality research reports because articles
are revised prior to publication in response to the suggestions and criticisms of the experts.
Criminological and criminal justice research is published in a myriad of journals within several disciplines,
including criminology, law, sociology, psychology, and economics. As a result, there is no one
formatting style that all criminological literature abides by. If, for example, you are submitting your paper
to a psychology-related journal, youmust abide by the formatting style dictated by the Publication Manual
430 THE PRACTICE OF RESEARCH IN CRIMINOLOGY AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
of the American Psychological Association (2009). The easiest way to determine how to format a paper for
a particular journal is to examine recent volumes of the journal and format your paper accordingly. To
give you a general idea of what a journal article looks like, an article in its entirety has been reprinted in
Appendix C, along with an illustration of how to read a journal article. There are also numerous articles
available on the Student Study Site for this text.
Despite the slight variations in style across journals, there are typically seven standard sections within
a journal article in addition to the title page (see Exhibit 13.1).
CHAPTER 13 Reporting Research Results 431
EXHIBI T 13.1 General Sections of a Journal Article
1. Abstract.This should be a concise and nonevaluative summary of your research paper (no more than
120 words) that describes the research problem, the sample, the method, and the findings.
2. Introduction. The body of a paper should open with an introduction that presents the specific problem
under study and describes the research strategy. Before writing this section, you should consider
the following questions: What is the point of the study? How do the hypotheses and the
research design relate to the problem? What are the theoretical implications of the study, and how
does the study relate to previous work in the area?What are the theoretical propositions tested, and
how were they derived? A good introduction answers these questions in a few paragraphs by summarizing
the relevant argument and the data, giving the reader a sense of what was done and why.
3. Literature Review. Discuss the relevant literature in a way that relates each previous study cited to
your research, not in an exhaustive historical review. Citation of and specific credit to relevant earlier
works is part of the researchers’ scientific and scholarly responsibility. It is essential for the growth
of cumulative science. This section should demonstrate the logical continuity between previous
research and the research at hand. At the end of this section, you are ready to conceptually define
your variables and formally state your hypotheses.
4. Method. Describe in detail how the study was conducted. Such a description enables the reader to
evaluate the appropriateness of your methods and the reliability and validity of your results. It also
permits experienced investigators to replicate the study if they so desire. In this section, you can
include subsections that describe the sample, the independent and dependent variables, and the
analytical or statistical procedure you will use to analyze the data.
5. Results. Summarize the results of the statistical or qualitative analyses performed on the data. This
can include tables and figures that summarize findings. If statistical analyses are performed, tests
of significance should also be highlighted.
6. Discussion. Take the opportunity to evaluate and interpret your results, particularly with respect to
your original hypotheses and previous research. Here, you are free to examine and interpret your
results as well as draw inferences from them. In general, this section should answer the following
questions:What have I contributed to the literature here? How has my study helped resolve the original
problem?What conclusions and theoretical implications can I draw from my study?What are the
limitations of my study? What are the implications for future research?
7. References. All citations in the manuscript must appear in the reference list, and all references must
be cited in the text.
Unlike journal articles, applied reports are usually commissioned by a particular government agency, corporation,
or nonprofit organization. As such, the most important problem that applied researchers confront is
the need to produce a final report thatmeets the funding organization’s expectations. This is called the hired
gun problem. Of course, the extent to which being a hired gun is a problem varies greatly with the research
orientation of the funding organization and with the nature of the research problem posed. The ideal situation
is to have fewconstraints on the nature of the final report, but sometimes research reports are suppressed
or distorted because the researcher comes to conclusions that the funding organization does not like.
Applied reports that are written in a less highly charged environment can face another problem—even
when they are favorably received by the funding organization, their conclusions are often ignored. This
problem can be more a matter of the organization not really knowing how to use research findings than
a matter of not wanting to use them. And this is not just a problem of the funding organization; many
researchers are prepared only to present their findings, without giving any thought to how research findings
can be translated into organizational policies or programs.
An Advisory Committee
An advisory committee can help the applied researcher avoid the problems of incompatible expectations for
the final report and insufficient understanding of howto use the research results,without adopting themore
engaged strategy ofWhyte’s (1991) participatory action research or Guba and Lincoln’s (1989) constructivist
inquiry. An advisory committee should be formed before the start of the project to represent the various organizational
segments with stakes in the outcomes of the research. The researcher can use the committee as
a source of intelligence about how particular findings may be received and as a sounding board for ideas
about howthe organization or agency can use research findings. Perhapsmost important, an advisory committee
can help the researcher work outmany problems in research design, implementation, and data collection.
Because an advisory committee is meant to comprise all stakeholders, it is inevitable that conflicts
will arise between advisory group members. In our experience, however, these conflicts almost invariably
can be used to strategizemore effectively about the research design and the final product.
Advisory committees are particularly necessary for research investigating controversial issues. For
example, after a study conducted in 1999 found that several death rowinmates had beenwrongly convicted
of their crimes, the governor of Illinois placed amoratoriumon all death sentences in the state.Other results
of the study suggested that the death penalty was handed down unfairly; it found proportionally more
minority and poor offenders were sentenced to death than whites and those who could afford hired legal
counsel. This caused a great deal ofmedia attention and calls for other states that practice the death penalty
to institute similarmoratoriums. As a consequence of this attention, other states have begun to examine their
implementation of the death penalty as well. Maryland is one such state. In 2001, the state legislature in
Maryland commissioned Raymond Paternoster (Paternoster et al. 2004) at the University ofMaryland to conduct
a study of its practice of the death penalty. The primary goal of the study was to determine whether
the administration of the death penalty in the state was affected by the race of the defendant or victim.
As you can imagine,when the studywas released, itwas controversial. Tomake sure all interestswere represented,
Paternoster et al. (2004) set up an advisory committee before undertaking the study. The advisory
committee consisted of a group of prosecutors and defense counselwho had experience in capital cases. They
advised Professor Paternoster on several critical issues, including the years that the study should cover, the
sourceswhere information can be found, and the particularly important variables related to sentencing outcomes.
Not only did the advisory committee provide substantive input into the research, but by having a broad
spectrumof the legal community “on board,” it also provided credibility to the study’s findings.
432 THE PRACTICE OF RESEARCH IN CRIMINOLOGY AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
You learned in Chapter 12 about some of the statistics that are useful in analyzing and reporting data,
but there are some additional methods of presenting statistical results that can improve research
reports. Combined and compressed displays are used most often in applied research reports and government
documents, but they can also help communicate findings more effectively in student papers
and journal articles.
In a combined frequency display, the distributions for a set of conceptually similar variables with
the same response categories are presented together, with common headings for the responses. For
example, you could identify the variables in the leftmost column and the value labels along the top.
Exhibit 13.2 is a combined display reporting the frequency distributions in percentage form for five
variables that indicate the responses of high school seniors to questions about their delinquent behavior.
From this table you can infer several pieces of information besides the basic distribution of selfreported
delinquency. You can determine the variation in the cohort’s involvement in specific types
of delinquent behavior, and you can also determine whether this behavior increased or decreased over
time (1982–1994). For example, although the majority of seniors reported having an argument or a
fight with their parents, only a small percentage of students (around 20%on average) reported getting
into a fight where a group of their friends was against another group or getting into trouble with police
(around 25%on average). You can also see that the rate of fighting behavior did not change much over
the 13-year time period examined; however, the percentage of youth getting into trouble with the
police actually decreased.
Compressed frequency displays can also be used to present cross-tabular data and summary
statistics more efficiently, by eliminating unnecessary percentages (such as those corresponding to the
second value of a dichotomous variable) and by reducing the need for repetitive labels. Exhibit 13.3
presents a compressed display used to highlight the results of a survey on attitudes toward problems
facing the country by several demographic characteristics. For several problem areas, respondents
were asked to tell interviewers if they believed the country was “about the same today,”
“making progress in this area,” or “losing ground” on this area. The percentages displayed are for
those respondents who said that they believed the country was “losing ground” on a particular
Combined and compressed statistical displays present a large amount of data in a relatively small
space. To the experienced reader of statistical reports, such displays can convey much important information.
They should be used with caution, however, because people who are not used to them may be
baffled by the rows of numbers. Graphs can also provide an efficient tool for summarizing relationships
among variables. Exhibit 13.4 is from the evaluation report of the Children at Risk (CAR) program performed
by Harrell, Cavanagh, and Sridharan (1999). It presents the percentage of youth who used drugs
at different times during the course of the evaluation for both treatment (youth who participated in the
program) and control (youth who did not) groups. As you can readily see, compared to youth who did
not receive the CAR program, fewer youth who participated in the CAR program used drugs at all times
that were measured.
Another good example of the use of graphs to show relationships is provided by a Bureau of Justice
Statistics report on age patterns of victims of violent crime (Perkins 1997). Exhibit 13.5, taken from that
report, shows how the rates of violent crimes have varied by particular age groups over time. You can see
that whereas violent crime victimization rates have remained relatively stable over time for older age
cohorts, younger age cohorts, particularly those under the age of 19, experienced increases in their rate of
victimization during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
CHAPTER 13 Reporting Research Results 433
(N = 3,179)
(N = 3,361)
(N = 3,350)
(N = 2,879)
(N = 2,627)
(N = 2,569)
(N = 2,690)
Argued or had a fight with either of your parents?
Not at all 8.8 9.7 9.6 9.3 10.0 9.3 12.1
Once 8.5 8.2 8.7 8.8 8.9 8.7 9.4
Twice 12.1 11.0 10.2 12.8 12.7 11.7 12.4
3 or 4 times 23.1 23.7 23.6 23.2 24.7 24.7 20.2
5 or more
47.5 47.5 47.9 45.9 43.6 45.5 45.9
Taken part in a fight where a group of your friends was against another group?
Not at all 80.4 80.5 79.7 81.1 79.6 78.7 77.8
Once 11.3 11.1 12.1 11.4 11.2 11.5 11.2
Twice 4.4 4.4 3.9 4.4 5.0 4.4 5.8
3 or 4
2.6 2.4 2.4 1.9 2.5 3.2 2.9
5 or more
1.4 1.6 1.8 1.2 1.7 2.2 2.3
Gotten into trouble with police because of something you did?
Not at all 75.9 77.5 76.6 75.8 77.4 77.8 90.4
Once 15.3 12.8 13.7 13.2 12.4 11.9 5.9
Twice 4.5 6.2 5.5 6.0 6.0 5.2 1.8
3 or 4
2.8 2.4 2.6 3.4 2.7 3.0 1.2
5 or more
1.5 1.1 1.6 1.6 1.5 2.2 0.6
434 THE PRACTICE OF RESEARCH IN CRIMINOLOGY AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
EXHIBI T 13.2
Combined Frequency Display of High School Seniors Reporting Involvement in
Selected Delinquent Activities in the Past 12 Months, United States (in %)
Source: Monitoring the Future Data provided by Monitoring the Future Project, Survey Research Center, Lloyd
D. Johnston, Jerald G. Bachman, and Patrick M. O’Malley, Principal Investigators. Table adapted fromSourcebook
of Criminal Justice Statistics: 1994 (NCJ-154591). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department
CHAPTER 13 Reporting Research Results 435
EXHIBI T 13.3
Compressed Display of Attitudes Toward Problems Affecting the Country
Today by Demographic Characteristics
Question: “Next, as I read you some problem areas, please tell me how you think each is affecting the country
today. First, do you think the problem of . . . is about the same today, is the country making progress in this
area, or is the country losing ground?”
Percentage Responding “Losing Ground”
Crime (in %) Families Split Up (in %) Drugs (in %)
Male 71 73 60
Female 82 77 71
White 77 75 64
Nonwhite 77 75 79
Under 30 years 73 75 64
30 to 49 years 79 73 63
50 to 64 years 78 76 69
65 years and older 77 76 70
College graduate 71 71 64
Some college 84 79 67
High school graduate 80 77 66
Less than high school
69 72 66
Source: Interview data from a nationwide sample of 1,800 adults by Princeton Survey Research Associates for
the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Adapted fromSourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics: 1995
(NCJ-158900). Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice.
ETHICS AND REPORTING
It is at the time of reporting research results that the researcher’s ethical duty to be honest becomes paramount.
Here are some guidelines:
• Provide an honest accounting of how the research was carried out and where the initial research
design had to be changed. Readers do not have to know about every change you made in your
plans and each new idea you had, but they should be informed about major changes in
hypotheses or research design.
• Maintain a full record of the research project so that questions can be answered if they arise.
Many details will have to be omitted from all but the most comprehensive reports, but these
omissions should not make it impossible to track down answers to specific questions about
research procedures that may arise in the course of data analysis or presentation.
• Avoid “lying with statistics” or using graphs to mislead. (See Chapter 12.)
436 THE PRACTICE OF RESEARCH IN CRIMINOLOGY AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
EXHIBI T 13.4 Percentage of Children at Risk and Control Youths Reporting Drug Use
Treatment (n = 264) Control (n = 236)
Source: A. Harrell, Cavanagh, S., and Sridharan, S. 1999. Evaluation of the Children at Risk Program: Results 1 Year
After the End of the Program (NCJ-178914).Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice: Research in Brief.
• Acknowledge the sponsors of the research. In part, this is so others can consider whether this
sponsorship may have tempted you to bias your results in some way; and thank staff who
made major contributions.
• Be sure that the order of authorship for coauthored reports is discussed in advance and reflects
agreed-upon principles. Be sensitive to coauthors’ needs and concerns.
Communicating With the Public
Even following appropriate guidelines such as these, however, will not prevent controversy and conflict
over research on sensitive issues. Does thismean that ethical researchers should avoid political controversy
by sidesteppingmedia outlets for their work? Many social scientists argue that themedia offer one
of the best ways to communicate the practical application of sociological knowledge and that when we
avoid these opportunities, “some of the best sociological insights never reach policy makers because
sociologists seldom take advantage of useful mechanisms to get their ideas out” (Wilson 1998:435).
The sociologist William Julius Wilson (1998) urges the following principles for engaging the public
through the media:
1. Focus on issues of national concern, issues that are high on the public agenda.
2. Develop creative and thoughtful arguments that are clearly presented and devoid of technical
CHAPTER 13 Reporting Research Results 437
EXHIBI T 13.5 Violent Crime Rates by Age
1973 1977 1982 1987 1992 1994
Source: Perkins, C. A. 1997. Age Patterns of Victims of Serious Violent Crime (NCJ-162031). Washington, DC:
Bureau of Justice Statistics.
3. Present the big picture whereby the arguments are organized and presented so that the readers
can see how the various parts are interrelated.
Ethical research reporting should not mean ineffective reporting. You need to tell a coherent story in
the report and to avoid losing track of the story in a thicket ofminuscule details. You do not need to report
every twist and turn in the conceptualization of the research problemor the conduct of the research, but
be suspicious of reports that do not seemto admit to the possibility of any roomfor improvement. Social
science is an ongoing enterprise in which one research report makes its most valuable contribution by
laying the groundwork for another, more sophisticated research project. Highlight important findings in
the research report, but use the research report also to point out what are likely to be the most productive
directions for future researchers.
It may seem depressing to end a book on research methods with a section on plagiarism, but it would be
irresponsible to avoid the topic. Of course, you may have a course syllabus detailing instructor or university
policies about plagiarismand specifying the penalties for violating that policy, sowe’re not simply going
to repeat that kind of warning. You probably realize that the practice of selling term papers is revoltingly
widespread (our search of “termpapers” on Google returned 5,920,000Web sites on June 3, 2008); sowe’re
not going to just repeat that academic dishonesty is widespread. Instead, we will use this section to review
the concept of plagiarismand to showhowthat problemconnects to the larger issue of the integrity of social
research.When you understand the dimensions of the problemand theway it affects research, you should
be better able to detect plagiarism in other work and avoid it in your own.
You learned in Chapter 3 that maintaining professional integrity—honesty and openness in research
procedures and results—is the foundation for ethical research practice.When it comes to research publications
and reports, being honest and openmeans avoiding plagiarism—that is, presenting as one’s own
the ideas or words of another person or persons for academic evaluation without proper acknowledgment
(Hard, Conway, and Moran 2006).
An increasing body of research suggests that plagiarismis a growing problemon college campuses. Jason
Stephens and his colleagues (2007) found in aWeb-based survey of self-selected students at two universities
that one quarter acknowledged having plagiarized a few sentences (24.7%) or a complete paper (.3%)
in coursework within the past year (many others admitted to other forms of academic dishonesty, such as
copying homework). Hard et al. (2006) conducted an anonymous survey in selected classes in one university,
with almost all students participating, and found much higher plagiarism rates: 60.6% reported that
they had copied “sentences, phrases, paragraphs, tables, figures or data directly or in slightlymodified form
from a book, article, or other academic source without using quotation marks or giving proper acknowledgment
to the original author or source” (p. 1069) and 39.4%reported that they had “copied information
from InternetWeb sites and submitted it as [their] work” (p. 1069).
So the plagiarism problem is not just about purchasing term papers—although that is really about as
bad as it gets (Broskoske 2005); plagiarism is also about what you do with the information you obtain
from a literature review or an inspection of research reports. And rest assured that this is not only about
student papers; it also is about the work of established scholars and social researchers who publish
reports that you want to rely on for accurate information. Several noted historians have been accused of
plagiarizing passages that they used in popular books; some have admitted to not checking the work of
their research assistants, to not keeping track of their sources, or to being unable to retrieve the data they
claimed they had analyzed. Whether the cause is cutting corners to meet deadlines or consciously fudging
facts, the effect is to undermine the trustworthiness of social research.
438 THE PRACTICE OF RESEARCH IN CRIMINOLOGY AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
Now that you are completing this course in research methods, it’s time to think about how to do your
part to reduce the prevalence of plagiarism. Of course, the first step is tomaintain careful procedures for
documenting the sources that you rely on for your own research and papers, but you should also think
about how best to reduce temptations among others. After all, what people believe about what others do
is a strong influence on their own behavior (Hard et al. 2006).
Reviewing the definition of plagiarism and how it is enforced by your discipline’s professional association
is an important first step. These definitions and procedures reflect a collective effort to help social
scientistsmaintain standards throughout the discipline. Awareness is the first step (American Sociological
Association [ASA] 1999). In addition, your college or university also has rules that delineate its definition
of and consequences for plagiarism.
Researchers have an obligation to be familiar with their code of ethics, other applicable ethics codes, and
their application to sociologists’ work. Lack of awareness or misunderstanding of an ethical standard is not,
in itself, a defense to a charge of unethical conduct.
ASA’s (1999) Code of Ethics, which is used by the American Society of Criminology, includes an explicit
prohibition of plagiarism:
(a) In publications, presentations, teaching, practice, and service, sociologists explicitly identify,
credit, and reference the author when they take data or material verbatim from another
person’s written work, whether it is published, unpublished, or electronically available.
(b) In their publications, presentations, teaching, practice, and service, sociologists provide
acknowledgment of and reference to the use of others’ work, even if the work is not quoted
verbatim or paraphrased, and they do not present others’ work as their own whether it is
published, unpublished, or electronically available. (P. 16)
The next step toward combating the problem and temptation of plagiarism is to keep focused on the
goal of social research methods: investigating the social world. If researchers are motivated by a desire
to learn about social relations, to understand how people understand society, and to discover why conflicts
arise and how they can be prevented, they will be as concerned with the integrity of their research
methods as are those, like yourself, who read and use the results of their research. Throughout this text,
you have been learning how to use research processes and practices that yield valid findings and trustworthy
conclusions. Failing to report honestly and openly on the methods used or sources consulted
derails progress toward that goal.
It works the same as with cheating in school.When students aremotivated only by the desire to “ace”
their tests and receive better grades than others, they are more likely to plagiarize and use other illicit
means to achieve that goal. Students who seek first to improve their understanding of the subject matter
and to engage in the process of learning are less likely to plagiarize sources or cheat on exams (Kohn
2008). They are also building the foundation for becoming successful social researchers who help others
understand our world.
Good critical skills are essential when evaluating research reports, whether your own or those produced by
others. There are always weak points in any research, even published research. It is an indication of
CHAPTER 13 Reporting Research Results 439
strength, not weakness, to recognize areas where one’s own research needs to be, or could have been,
improved. And it is really not just a question of sharpening our knives and going for the jugular. You need to
be able toweigh the strengths andweaknesses of particular research results and to evaluate a study in terms
of its contribution to understanding its particular research question, notwhether it gives a definitive answer
for all time.
But this is not to say that anything goes.Much research lacks one ormore of the three legs of validity—
measurement validity, causal validity, and generalizability—and sometimes contributes more confusion
than understanding about particular issues. Top journals generally maintain very high standards, partly
because they have good critics in the review process and distinguished editors whomake the final acceptance
decisions. But some daily newspapers do a poor job of screening, and research reporting standards
in many popular magazines, TV shows, and books are often abysmally poor. Keep your standards high
and your view critical when reading research reports, but not so high or so critical that you turn away
from studies that make tangible contributions to the literature, even if they do not provide definitive
answers. And don’t be so intimidated by the need to maintain high standards that you shrink from taking
advantage of opportunities to conduct research yourself.
The growth of social sciencemethods frominfancy to adolescence, perhaps to young adulthood, ranks
as a key intellectual accomplishment of the 20th century. Opinions about the causes and consequences
of crime no longer need depend on the scattered impressions of individuals, and criminal justice policies
can be shaped by systematic evidence of their effectiveness.
Of course, social research methods are no more useful than the commitment of the researchers to
their proper application. Researchmethods, like all knowledge, can be used poorly or well, for good purposes
or bad, when appropriate or not. A claim that a belief is based on social science research in itself
provides no extra credibility. As you have learned throughout this book, wemust first learn whichmethods
were used, how they were applied, and whether interpretations square with the evidence. To investigate
the social world, we must keep in mind the lessons of research methods.
440 THE PRACTICE OF RESEARCH IN CRIMINOLOGY AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
Combined frequency display
Compressed frequency display
Participatory action research
• Proposal writing should be a time for clarifying the
research problem, reviewing the literature, and
thinking ahead about the report that will be required.
• Relations with research subjects and consumers
should be developed in a manner that achieves key
research goals and preparation of an effective
research report. The traditional scientific approach of
minimizing the involvement of research subjects and
consumers in research decisions has been challenged
by proponents of participatory action research and
adherents of the constructivist paradigm.
• Different types of reports typically pose different
problems. Authors of student papers must be guided in
part by the expectations of their professor. Thesis writers
have to meet the requirements of different committee
members but can benefit greatly from the areas of
expertise represented on a typical thesis committee.
Applied researchers are constrained by the expectations
of the research sponsor; an advisory committee from
the applied setting can help avoid problems. Journal
articles must pass a peer review by other social scientists
and often are much improved in the process.
• Research reports should include an introductory
statement of the research problem, a literature review,
a methodology section, a findings section with
pertinent data displays, and a conclusions section that
identifies any weaknesses in the research design and
points out implications for future research and
theorizing. This basic report format should be modified
according to the needs of a particular audience.
• All reports should be revised several times and critiqued
by others before they are presented in final form.
• Some of the data in many reports can be displayed
more efficiently by using combined and compressed
• The central ethical concern in research reporting is to
be honest. This honesty should include providing a
truthful accounting of how the research was carried
out, maintaining a full record about the project, using
appropriate statistics and graphs, acknowledging the
research sponsors, and being sensitive to the
perspectives of coauthors.
• Plagiarism is a grievous violation of scholarly
ethics. All direct quotes or paraphrased material
from another author’s work must be appropriately
CHAPTER 13 Reporting Research Results 441
1. Select a recent article published in a peer-reviewed
criminological journal and answer the following
questions: How effective is the article in conveying the
design and findings of the research? Could the article’s
organization be improved at all? Are there bases for
disagreement about the interpretation of the findings?
2. Call a local criminal justice official and arrange for an
interview. Ask the official about his or her experience
with applied research reports and his or her
conclusions about the value of social research and
the best techniques for reporting to practitioners.
3. Rate four criminological journal articles for overall
quality of the research and for effectiveness of the
writing and data displays. Discuss how each could
have been improved.
4. How firm a foundation do social research methods
provide for understanding the social world?
Stage an in-class debate, with the pro and con
arguments focusing on the variability of social
research findings across different social contexts
and the difficulty of understanding human
DEVELOPING A RESEARCH PROPOSAL
Now, it is time to bring all the elements of your proposal together.
1. Organize the proposal material you wrote for
previous chapters in a logical order. Based on your
research question, select the most appropriate
research method as your primary method (see
2. To add a multiple component to your research
design, select another research method that could
add knowledge about your research question.
3. Rewrite the entire proposal, adding an introduction.
Also add sections that outline a budget and state the
limitations of your study.
1. Go to the National Science Foundation’s Law and
Social Sciences Program Web site at
What are the components that this program looks for
in a proposed piece of research? Write a detailed
outline for a research proposal to study a subject of
your choice to be submitted to the National Science
Foundation for funding.
2. Using the Web, find five different examples of
criminological research projects that have been
completed. Briefly describe each. How does each
differ in its approach to reporting the research
results? To whom do you think the author(s) of each
is “reporting” (i.e., who is the “audience”)? How do
you think the predicted audience has helped shape
the author’s approach to reporting the results? Be
sure to note the Web sites at which you located each
of your five examples.
442 THE PRACTICE OF RESEARCH IN CRIMINOLOGY AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
1. Plagiarism is not a joke. What are the regulations on
plagiarism in class papers at your school? What do
you think the ideal policy would be? Should this
policy take into account cultural differences in
teaching practices and learning styles? Do you think
this ideal policy is likely to be implemented? Why or
why not? Based on your experiences, do you believe
that most student plagiarism is the result of
misunderstanding about proper citation practices, or
is it the result of dishonesty? Do you think that
students who plagiarize while in school are less likely
to be honest as social researchers?
2. Full disclosure of sources of research as well as of
other medically related funding has become a
major concern for medical journals. Should
researchers publishing in criminology and criminal
justice journals also be required to fully disclose
all sources of funding? Should full disclosure of
all previous funds received by criminal justice
agencies be required in each published article? What
about disclosure of any previous jobs or paid
consultations with criminal justice agencies?
Write a short justification of the regulations you
The companion Web site for The Practice of Research in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Fourth Edition,
can be found at http://www.sagepub.com/prccj4e. Visit the Web-based Student Study Site to enhance
your understanding of the chapter by using the e-flashcards, practice self-tests, and more.
STUDENT STUDY SITE
SPSS OR EXCEL EXERCISES
1. How do friends’ opinions and support for delinquent
activities influence levels of delinquency among
youth? A combined frequency display of the
distributions of a series of YOUTH.POR variables will
help you answer this question.
a. Obtain a frequency distribution and descriptive
statistics for the index of friends’ attitudes toward
delinquent acts (FROPINION), the index of friends’
engagement in delinquent acts (FRBEHAVE), and
the delinquency index at time 11 (DELINQ1).
b. Using the mean as the measure of center, recode
the three indexes to measure low and high levels of
each variable (e.g., all values below the mean represent
low levels of a given variable, and all values
above the mean represent high levels of the given
c. Use the percentages in these distributions to prepare
a combined frequency display.
d. Discuss what you have learned about the influence
of friends’ delinquent tendencies on delinquency
levels among youth.
2. Repeat Exercise 1 using the parental index (PARNT2),
the certainty of punishment index (CERTAIN), and the
morality index (MORAL). Note: The scale for the
variables of interest in this exercise is measured
opposite the delinquency scale. For example, high
scores on the parental index indicate high parental
supervision, which in theory should correspond with
low levels of delinquency. Be sure to place the
percentages for DELINQ1 accordingly (make note of
the placement of the percentiles for this variable or
create more intuitive column labels).
3. Write a short report based on the analyses you
conducted for the SPSS exercises throughout this
book, including the data displays you have just
prepared. Include in your report a brief
introduction and literature review. In a short
methods section, review the basic methods used
and list the variables you have used for the
analysis. In your conclusions section, include some
suggestions for additional research on support for
CHAPTER 13 Reporting Research Results 443
Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment Police Foundation Reports
Page 5 of 13 April 1984
meet the interviewer at a ?safe?
location for the interview.
The response rate to the biweekly
follow-up interviews was even
lower than for the initial
interview, as response rates have
been in much research on women
crime victims. After the first
interview, for which the victims
were paid $20, there was a
gradual falloff in completed
interviews with each successive
wave; only 161 victims provided
all 12 follow-up interviews over
the six months, a completion rate
of 49 percent. Whether paying
for the follow-up interviews
would have improved the
response rate is unclear; it would
have added over $40,000 to the
cost of the research. When the
telephone interviews yielded few
reports of violence, every fourth
interview was conducted in
Fortunately, there is absolutely
no evidence that the
experimental treatment assigned
to the offender affected the
victims? decision to grant initial
interviews. Statistical tests
showed there was no difference
in victims? willingness to give
interviews according to what
police did, race of victim, or race
In sum, despite the practical
difficulties of controlling an
experiment and interviewing
crime victims in an emotionally
charged and violent social
context, the experiment
succeeded in producing a
promising sample of 314 cases
with complete official outcome
measures and an apparently
unbiased sample of responses
from the victims in those cases.
About the Police Foundation
The Police Foundation is a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting innovation and
improvement in policing. Established in 1970, the foundation has conducted seminal research in police behavior,
policy, and procedure, and works to transfer to local agencies the best information about practices for dealing
effectively with a range of important police operational and administrative concerns.
Our purpose is to help the police be more effective in doing their job, whether it be deterring robberies, intervening
in potentially injurious domestic disputes, or working to improve relationships between the police and the
communities they serve. To accomplish our mission, we work closely with police officers and police departments
across the country, and it is in their hard work and contributions that our accomplishments are rooted.
The foundation has done much of the research that led to a questioning of the traditional model of professional law
enforcement and toward a new view of policingCone emphasizing a community orientation. As a partner in the
Community Policing Consortium, the foundation, along with four other leading national law enforcement
organizations, plays a principal role in the development of community policing research, training, and technical
The foundation=s Institute for Integrity, Leadership, and Professionalism in Policing (IILPP) helps police
departments to acquire both the knowledge gained through research and the tools needed to integrate that
knowledge into police practices. Working with law enforcement agencies seeking to improve accountability,
performance, service delivery, and community satisfaction with police services, the IILPP offers a wide range of
assessment, technology, training, education, certification, management, and human resources services.
The foundation has developed two state-of-the art technologies to enable police agencies to systematically collect and
analyze a wide range of performance-related data. The RAMSJII (The Risk Analysis Management System) is an
early warning device that helps agencies manage and minimize risk. The QSIJ (Quality of Service Indicator)
collects and analyzes officer-citizen contacts, including traffic stop data. Both The RAMSJII and the QSIJ produce
detailed reports to assist police managers in making critical personnel and operational decisions.
The foundation=s state-of-the-art Crime Mapping Laboratory (CML) works to advance the understanding of
computer mapping and to pioneer new applications of computer mapping. The CML provides training and technical
assistance to police agencies seeking to incorporate mapping technologies and applications into their crime analysis
and patrol operations.
Other foundation projects are also directed at the improvement of policing. For example, the foundation has helped
to create independent organizations dedicated to the advancement of policing, including the National Organization
of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).
Motivating all of the foundation’s efforts is the goal of efficient, effective, humane policing that operates within the
framework of democratic principles and the highest ideals of the nation.
1201 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036-2636
(202) 659-9149 fax
©1984 Police Foundation. All rights reserved.
Review Sherman and Berk’s experiment on the effect of mandatory arrest on domestic violence.
•Discuss Sherman and Berk’s research with regard to each of the four report goals:
? advance scientific knowledge
? shape social policy
? organize social action, and
? dialogue with research subjects