Data Collection Methodologies in Criminal Law

Six studies analyzed for this research have used three main types of methodologies, including qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods. Based on the methodology used in the study, the types and patterns of data collection have also varied. Quantitative studies conducted by Feigenberg & Miller (2021) and Sartor (2018) have applied methods such as questionnaires, surveys, and documents and records to gather and analyze data. In turn, qualitative studies conducted by Copes et al. (2020) and Manwaring (2021) used interviews, focus groups, observations, and oral histories as their main sources of data collection. Finally, mixed-method studies, such as Copenhaver & Tewksbury (2018) and Moak et al. (2019) are based on concurrent and sequential types of data collection and combine the patterns listed above.

There are several data collection types used in my area of study in the social sciences most often. Thus, the criminal justice system uses surveys, interviews, focus groups, or experiments to collect and analyze data. These and other methods are also commonly used in other social sciences, such as psychology, political science, sociology, history, and law. It can be suggested that these patterns are most commonly used in social sciences because they allow scientists and other professionals working in the field to confirm or refute their hypotheses. In turn, the results of the studies that use these methods can be used to develop various policies and practices.

Open-ended surveys, interviews, questionnaires, and focus groups can be considered as the most credible methods of data collection, as they allow yielding more in-depth, multi-dimensional results. Therefore, researchers gain a more profound insight into the problem. However, if there is an excessive use of certain data collection patterns over others, it can threaten the credibility of the study and poorly affect the quality of the data. In addition, it may affect the variability and reliability of the study as the research will only provide limited types of data.

Multiple data-collection types can have various benefits and drawbacks and should be selected based on the time and resources available to the researchers. For instance, open-ended personal interviews can provide insight into the participants’ behaviors, but they can also be time-consuming. Questionnaires are economical and easy to plan and execute, but they may not be as helpful when interacting with complex emotional people. Experiments can provide researchers with higher level of control, but at the same time they can lead to artificial results, as researchers may over-manipulate their variables. Finally, focus groups as a data collection method allows testing various pre-conceived notions and ideas, but it can also be expensive to implement in certain situations.

Collecting varied types of information is closely linked to the credibility and validity of the study. This connection is defined by the fact that different data sources and patterns can increase the reliability of the data and the results. Using different data collection methods increases the variability of the sources and therefore reduces threats to credibility. Interviews, observation, questionnaires, and surveys are the types of data collection currently used in each of the social sciences. Some social sciences tend to favor certain types of data collection over others due to the specific factors that are more beneficial for the particular studies. For example, sociologists and behavioral scientists may use interviews more often, because this pattern allows collecting information from a limited number of people on a large number of topics.


Copenhaver, A., & Tewksbury, R. (2018). Interactions between autistic individuals and law enforcement: A mixed-methods exploratory study. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 44(2), 309-333.

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.

Feigenberg, B., & Miller, C. (2021). Racial divisions and criminal justice: Evidence from southern state courts. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 13(2), 207-240.

Manwaring, J. (2021). Proportionality’s lower bound. Criminal Law and Philosophy, 15(3), 393-405.

Moak, S. C., Walker, J. T., Earwood, M., & Towery, G. (2019). Using reentry simulations to promote changes in attitude toward offenders: Experiential learning to promote successful reentry. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 45(1), 126-144.

Sartor, G. (2018). A quantitative approach to proportionality. Handbook of Legal Reasoning and Argumentation, 613-636.

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LawBirdie. 2023. "Data Collection Methodologies in Criminal Law." September 23, 2023.

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LawBirdie. "Data Collection Methodologies in Criminal Law." September 23, 2023.