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Qualitative Versus Quantitative Research Methods

Carrying out high-quality studies is an essential component of the design and assessment of criminal justice. Additionally, it is a crucial way of improving a practitioner’s information requirements. However, conducting criminal justice research can be excellent for a practitioner who has some previous experience. Research can be accomplished by a methodology that is quantitative, qualitative or a combination of two. Qualitative methodology creates numbers for analysis and offers an organized impression of criminal justice and comparisons across big groups of persons. In qualitative methods, statistical ways are employed to evaluate things shown with charts or graphs objectively. Outcomes from the methodology mentioned above are frequently explained as being “generalizable” across groups of persons (e.g., judges, offenders, or inmates)or phenomena (e.g., drug use, corruption, or assault) or across time. The outcomes may be utilized to generalize ideas wildly, forecast outcomes, and investigate causal relationships.

On the other hand, the qualitative methodology offers insights into various factors of social life and creates words as information for analysis. In qualitative methods, attention is paid to people’s experiences, perceptions, and feelings to examine and understand the meaning people or groups ascribe to a human or social issue. Researchers concerned with looking at a point or topic in detail can employ qualitative methodology, particularly when the viewpoint of some group of persons cannot be experienced or understood by using a desk study or statistical analysis study.

Qualitative methodology is a superior means of carrying out meaningful studies in criminal justice. The many advantages of qualitative methods offer a depth of understanding criminal justice and processing beyond that provided by statistical, detached analyses (Lynch et al., 2017). Due to the differences in the information, how information is gathered and analyzed, and what the comments and input can explain to us about criminal justice, the knowledge increased through qualitative research is richer, informative, and provides improved indulgences compared to the one that can be gained through quantitative analysis. The superiority of qualitative study ascends from the essential differences in quantitative and qualitative research and what they can add to bodies of knowledge. At the core, qualitative methodology pays attention to the traits, meanings, and defining features of experience, cultures/settings, interactions, people, and events. As one most crucial exponent of qualitative research has described, quality refers to the where, when, how, and what of a thing – its ambiance and essence. As a result, qualitative methodology relates to the descriptions, symbols, metaphors, characteristics, definitions, concepts, and meanings. Notice that what is missing from the purpose mentioned above is the quantity or amount of whatever is being researched; the numerical descriptions or number of things and their connections is not the concentration of qualitative methodology; that is the concentration of the quantitative methodology.

Hammersley (2018) asserts that quantitative methodology is usually considered the more scientific method of carrying out social science. The concentration is on employing particular definitions and carefully operationalizing what specific variables and ideas mean. The qualitative methodology focuses on interpreting and presenting users with complete views looking at environmental immersions and a magnitude of understanding of ideas. In simple terms, qualitative research is about obtaining accurate accounts of the social factors of how crime takes place and how the processes, structures, and agents of responding to a crime operate in culturally-based settings. The qualitative methodology offers a detailed understanding of issues that is not possible via quantitative methodology (Copes et al., 2020). Qualitative methodology is the approach that does not just centralize but also places fundamental value on complete understandings and how individuals (the social factor of our context) operate, experience, and understand in milieus that are dynamic and social in their structure and foundation. This does not imply that all social scientists value and recognize qualitative methodology, nor do all social scientists believe that qualitative methodology is superior to quantitative methodology or even contributes to inaugurating a body of knowledge (Bullock et al., 2017). For many researchers and scholars of criminal justice, qualitative methodology is inferior to what can be gained from quantitative methodology. It offers only non-scientific, anecdotal examples of marginally valuable and exciting understandings.

It is important to note that the qualitative research method is not just the “feeble” stepchild of a scientific society in the eyes of most scholars in criminal justice but is also statistically the unique method behind published scholarship in criminal justice. Most researchers in criminal justice assert that qualitative methodology is the dominion of pseudo-science and offers low value for looking at how crime and societal reactions to crime come to light. As Bergin (2017) admits, the rising popularity of quantitative methodology has been faced with resistance from some scholars and researchers. Some people believe that the incapability to numerically evaluate and measure many of the essential procedures and concepts necessary in criminal justice will prove misleading information concerning the validity of those concepts. When faced with operationalizing considerably abstract theoretical ideas, scholars and researchers can only evaluate observable proxies for the opinions of interest. These proxies might not have the capacity to capture the entire essence of the central concept.

In summing up, we have seen that quantitative methodology is the line dancing research method to science. Anyone and everyone can do it, and all that appears to matter is that you get the steps correctly. If you get the steps right and are in the correct order, you will obtain a product. It may be rough, have good links between the look or actions executed. On the other hand, qualitative methodology is the interpretive, ballet-like dance research method to science. While steps are to be followed, producing an emotionally infused, well-linked, the smooth product is more significant. The qualitative methodology does not depend on the mechanical accuracy of the steps being followed but instead pays attention to how the general product communicates a message and moves individuals intellectually and emotionally. The qualitative methodology may help assess theory and test whether the theory holds up under a diversity of instances and circumstances. However, qualitative methodology and understandings offer researchers and scholars the insights to conceptualize problems and issues differently, thus offering the building blocks and foundation for theoretical refinements, advancements, and initiations. The above point is even conceded and acknowledged by defenders of quantitative methodology. In representativeness, theory creation is a greatly qualitative endeavor. Qualitative researchers fundamentally create and advance theories. In other words, while quantitative methodology certainly does provide some understandings and information on criminal justice, the qualitative methodology offers more meaningful and detailed insights.


Bergin, T. (2018). An introduction to data analysis: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods. Sage.

Bullock, R., Little, M., & Millham, S. (2017). The relationships between quantitative and qualitative approaches in social policy research. In Mixing methods: qualitative and quantitative research (pp. 81-99). Routledge.

Copes, H., Beaton, B., Ayeni, D., Dabney, D., & Tewksbury, R. (2020). A content analysis of qualitative research published in top criminology and criminal justice journals from 2010 to 2019. American journal of criminal justice, 45(6), 1060-1079.

Lynch, M., Barrett, K., Stretesky, P., & Long, M. (2017). The neglect of quantitative research in green criminology and its consequences. Critical Criminology, 25(2), 183-198.

Hammersley, M. (2018). The dilemma of qualitative method: Herbert Blumer and the Chicago tradition. Routledge.


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