Scientific Methods Used in Research Inquiry

Category: Research

There is one scientific method by which the relationship that exists between variables can be examined. Such examination reveals the cause-effect relationship between the variables. One variable is altered in order to establish the effect of such alteration on another variable. Any other variables that may have an effect on the result are held constant. The variable that remains unchanged is the independent variable, while the one it changes is the dependent variable (Kumar, 2005). This method can be used in criminal justice. One could, for instance, observe the effect of the level of experience among law enforcers to the quality of work that they deliver. In such a study, it may be important to check the quality of work against a constant level of experience. Quality of work is the dependent variable while the level of experience is the independent one.

Survey and seeking patterns in data are processes that form another method of scientific research inquiry. It is applied whereby the variables being handled can be quantified. Survey research describes the opinions, patterns or behavior exhibited by a given sample. The patterns can be obtained by administering questionnaires or conducting interviews with the subjects under study. Longitudinal or cross-sectional questionnaires may be used here. The former involves administering repeated questionnaires to a sample population at different times. An example would be questionnaires administered to law enforcers at different times. Longitudinal studies enable the researcher to identify variables that do not change with time. Cross-sectional questionnaires are administered to the whole population at only one point in time. A representative sub-set of a very large population may also be used. The method aids in eliminating bias that usually comes with sampling. One may, for instance, administer questionnaires to all the businesspeople on a street when examining the level of insecurity on that street.

Classification is another method of inquiry used in scientific research. It mainly involves the observation of differential traits possessed by the items, subjects or issues under study. Dissimilarities and similarities in these traits are categorized in groups. The nature of the data obtained from the items determines the classification that can be used for research (Kumar, 2005). The data may be categorized on the basis of the types of attribute possessed by the items or magnitude of a given trait that they exhibit. The latter is used when categorizing data on the basis of class intervals. Law enforcers may be placed into various groups based on their literacy levels, gender or age.

Exploration and observation of variables over time is another method of scientific inquiry. This method is commonly known as observation methodology. Several steps are used to obtain observations (Slack F et al, 2001). The observation to be made is identified by establishing what, why, how and when the observation is made. What is to be observed? It depends on the available knowledge about the issue under study. “Why the observation should be made tells the researcher whether the observation is relevant to the study. The question helps the researcher to come up with the possible solutions to the question. How the observation will be made details how the selection of the best observation procedure will be made (Wall and Williams, 1970). It tells the researcher whether to interact with the subjects under study or not. When to conduct the observation is about the timing of making an observation. It may determine whether it is well-captured. The observed trait may be time-dependent or time-independent. Timing of an observation may be used to identify or eliminate such dependency.

Case Example

Hypothesis: Whether the police department is well-equipped to curb cybernetic crimes.

The variables that are to be used in this study include the number of reported cybercrimes whose suspects have been prosecuted, and the number of reported cybercrimes whose suspects are still at large. The variables to be held constant include popularity of various crimes, the complexity of crime and the difference in knowledge about forms of cybercrimes among victims of cybercrime. The method of survey and pattern-seeking can be applied here. The researcher may administer short cross-sectional questionnaires to a substantial subset of a city’s population. Information can be gathered from people at cybercafes on whether they have been victims of cybercrime, whether they reported their cases to the police and, whether the offenders were brought to book. The popularity of various cybercrimes will be established from the responses given by the respondents.  The data may then be processed to calculate the percentage of concluded cases versus those whose perpetrators are still at large.

The fair-test method may be used to ascertain whether the lack of knowledge about cybercrime among victims contributes significantly to the lowering of the percentage of prosecuted suspects. The test may be conducted on data obtained about knowledge of cybercrimes in the questionnaires.

In conclusion, scientific methods of inquiry are procedures by which questions and investigations are examined based on evidence to review what is already known, or find out the unknown. These methods are widely applied in criminology for research and to solve real criminal cases. The choice of a method of research inquiry depends on the nature and extent of the data being handled. The use of a correct research method is important for any inquiry. It enables the researcher to trust the results of the research.

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