Data collection is compulsory when conducting a research study. Inaccurate data can severely impact the results of a study and can lead to invalid results. Research is conducted in order to answer basic questions, such as: why something occurred or what the consequences are after a particular event happens. (Kunselman & Tewksbury, 2008) There are several methods of data collection that can be utilized in order to answer these questions. This paper will identify and describe five scientific methods of data collection, develop a hypothesis, and form a conclusion using two methods of inquiry.
Observation is a technique used in qualitative studies to collect data through direct contact between the researcher and a person or a group of persons without disturbing their natural state. When observing a group the researcher may choose to be a passive observer, participant observer, or an active observer throughout the study. The passive observer is considered the best way to collect data. The researcher remains at a distance and is able to gather data by monitoring and observing the behavior of the individuals in the study without doing anything that would disturb or interrupt the scene. The researcher would write detailed notes based on the observations and will have no interaction with the group. Often times the individuals being studied may not be aware they are being watched or for what reason. Other times the researcher will need to gain access and be accepted by the parties being observed. Participant observation is a method in which the researcher becomes a participant in the activities while conducting observations for the means of collecting supporting data for the research study. The researcher will gather data by documenting field notes, asking other participants open ended questions, and collecting any available documents. This method allows for the researcher to gain information through an insider’s view, but can also disrupt the natural realm of activities and behavior by the studied individuals. As an active participant the researcher is allowed contact with the studied group, but it is limited. During this method of research the researcher engages in the study as though he is a participant. Passively interacting, the observations are made and recorded. The researcher will identify with the group and even pass him off as one of them, but will hold off on full participation in order to avoid disrupting the natural order of the group. Through the means of observation the researcher is able to gain a better mindset of what is happening without relying on outside information.
Interviewing is a technique used to gather data by asking participant’s questions and recording their reaction and answers. “Researchers use interviews to gain in depth understanding of how individuals experience criminal justice and how attitudes, values, and behaviors are shaped.” (Kunselman & Tewksbury, 2008) Interviews provide incite and a deeper understanding of an area of criminal justice that may be unknown or not well understood. Interviews are also very helpful in gathering Intel from individuals that do not feel comfortable speaking in a group setting. Information provided may be sensitive and highly confidential. Interviewees may remain anonymous. (Gill, Stewart, Treasure, & Chadwick, 2008) The interview questions should be designed to gather as much information as possible using open ended questions. The interviewer may want to start off asking easy to answer questions and lead up to more defining questions that spawn sensitivity and emotion. During the interview the researcher will take note of the answers provided, body language, and emotion. Focus groups are more laid back and involve a large group of people that are actively discussing a topic together. The interviewer acts more as a moderator and takes notes during the discussion. There is less control during a focus group and individuals may digress from the subject at hand. Researchers gravitate towards focus groups in order to retrieve more vivid ideas because the participants bounce thoughts off of one another. Interviews and focus groups are a very common way to collect data particularly to access knowledge in areas not amendable to quantitative methods or where depth, insight, and further understanding are required. (Gill, Stewart, Treasure, & Chadwick, 2008)
In quantitative research, sampling is the process of selecting a group of individuals from a pool in which each individual has an equal chance of being selected for the study. Sampling methods include purposive sampling, quota sampling, and snowball sampling. In purposive sampling the researcher will select individuals that match specific criteria that are relevant to a specific question of research. In quota sampling, the researcher may choose participants based on certain characteristics, such as age or gender and that display experience relevant to the research topic. Snowball sampling is a method of purposive sampling used by researchers as a form of recruitment for the study. In this method, former participants act as a social network and refer people form their social circle that meet the criteria to the researcher in order to contribute to the study.
American airlines that add one additional air marshal on each flight are less likely to have terrorist’s takeovers on flight.
Harvard Law, (2015) suggests when conducting a research study the researcher should follow the formulation of the hypothesis, by operationalizing the concepts within it. Data will be collected through interviews of pilots and stewards from five major airlines and current U.S. Air Marshalls. It would be essential to get an inside view on current security measures that are implemented on flight and get a glimpse at how the employees view the success of the airline security. What we need to find out is if there is a need for an additional U.S. Air Marshal on flights. During the research study it would be beneficial for the researcher to initiate contact with the airline and regular passengers, by becoming an active participant in the study. Data collected during the active participant stage would include observations during flight, how the employees interact with passengers, and how the U.S. Marshal identifies and disengages any threats during the flight. The researcher would specifically note any challenges the U.S. Marshal may have encountered in disengaging threats. Additional documentation may be collected on how many threats the airline has each week and what type of flights receive the threats. The conclusion of the study would support the hypothesis and prove that it would be less likely for terrorists to take over a flight with an additional U.S. Marshal on the flight.
There are several ways in which data can be collected and analyzed for the purpose of a research study. Methods include, observation, participation, interviews, focus groups, and sampling. The researcher must choose a method that will work best in supporting the hypothesis. Invalid or distorted resources will hinder the research study and can lead to an unsuccessful conclusion challenging public policy and safety.
Vito, G., Tweksbury, R., & Kunselman, J. (2008). Introduction to Criminal Justice Research Methods: An Applied Approach. Springfield: Charles C Thomas Publisher, LTD.
Gill, P., Stewart, K., Treasure, E., & Chadwick, P. (2008, March 22). Methods of data collection in qualitative research: Interviews and focus groups. Retrieved July 5, 2015, from http://www.academia.edu/746649/Methods_of_data_collection_in_qualitative_research_interviews_and_focus_groups
Collecting Data. (2015). Retrieved July 4, 2015, from http://www.law.harvard.edu/library/empirical-research-services/data.html