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Using Cognitive Interviews to Guide Questionnaire Construction for Cross-National Crime Surveys  

Stephen Farrall

What is a “snowball”? For some, a snowball is a drink made of advocaat and lemonade; for others, a mix of heroin and cocaine injected; for yet others, a handful of packed snow commonly thrown at objects or people; for gamblers, it refers to a cash prize that accumulates over successive games; for social scientists, it is a form of sampling. There are other uses for the term in the stock market and further historical usages that refer to stealing things from washing lines or that are racist. Clearly then, different people in different contexts and different times will have used the term “snowball” to refer to various activities or processes. Problems like this—whereby a particular word or phrase may have various meanings or may be interpreted variously—are just one of the issues for which cognitive interviews can offer insights (and possible solutions). Cognitive interviews can also help researchers designing surveys to identify problems with mistranslation of words, or near-translations that do not quite convey the intended meaning. They are also useful for ensuring that terms are understood in the same way by all sections of society, and that they can be used to assess the degree to which organizational structures are similar in different countries (not all jurisdictions have traffic police, for example). They can also assess conceptual equivalence. Among the issues explored here are the following: • What cognitive interviews are • The background to their development • Why they might be used in cross-national crime and victimization surveys • Some of the challenges associated with cross-national surveys • Ways cognitive interviews can help with these challenges • Different approaches to cognitive interviewing (and the advantages of each) • How to undertake cognitive interviews • A “real-world” example of a cognitive interviewing exercise • Whether different probing styles make any difference to the quality of the data derived.


Life Events Calendar Method  

Jennifer Roberts

The calendar methodology facilitates data collection across multiple life domains, events, and time to assess how dynamic changes influence criminal offending, victimization, and criminal justice contacts. Building upon knowledge of the structure of autobiographical memory, calendar methodologists use a variety of cues to aid recall of transitions into and out of a variety of life events during a specified time frame. Past studies have created highly specialized calendars for data collection, altering the life domains and events studied, type of calendar used (paper or calendar), time unit and reference period, and mode of administration. Overall, the calendar method performs similar to or better than a standard interviewing or survey procedure. However, more studies using criminological samples and topics are needed.


Qualitative Methods in International and Comparative Criminology  

Max Travers

Although the field of international criminology has mostly employed quantitative methods to test universal theories, there is a growing recognition of the potential value of qualitative methods in understanding crime and criminal justice in a globalizing world. The difficulties in developing this field are partly practical and financial. It is difficult visiting different countries and overcoming language barriers. But there are also conceptual challenges. Criminology generally is only just starting to understand and engage with the distinction between quantitative and qualitative research methods and to discover the wide range of qualitative methods employed in interdisciplinary fields, such as education, health, environmental, media, and management studies, and to recognize that theories are important in this field.


Methodological Approaches to Studying Crime and Popular Culture in New Media  

Francine Banner

Researchers across varied disciplines have begun to explore social media as a new delta of communication; however, few are taking a hard look at social media as it relates to crime. Sites such as Twitter and Facebook increasingly are being used by law enforcement as tools for engaging in criminal investigation, improving public relations, and increasing public awareness. Similarly, persons engaging in crime increasingly employ such sites in novel and unique ways to network, exchange information, and execute and record criminal activities. A survey of research in fields ranging from computer science to sociology to communications demonstrates that both quantitative and qualitative research on and about social media have the capacity greatly to advance contemporary understanding of social organization and protest, crime and criminal behavior, and law and social control. For example, Facebook and Twitter have become key sources for gaining insights into criminal behaviors, such as gang activity, as well as on-the-ground data regarding significant events, such as the Occupy Wall Street, Arab Spring, the Black Lives matter movements, and elections of public figures. Other applications, such as Snapchat and Kik, provide the opportunity for immediate transmission of content and a new source of evidence to be used in criminal prosecutions. Studying social media from a criminal justice perspective, however, is a complex endeavor. While the Internet offers seemingly limitless opportunities for social organizing and networked engagement, the forum bears as much capacity for exclusion as it does for liberation. The growth of new social ills or crimes, such as “doxing,” “phishing,” and “revenge pornography,” for example, highlight that the confluence of immediacy of communication, perceived anonymity, and lack of moderation often renders the online environment threatening for perceived outsiders, particularly young women. On the other hand, as incidents, such as online threats against gamer Zoe Quinn and blogger Anita Sarkeesian, have come to light, online content is increasingly monitored, regulated, and controlled by its corporate ownership, who generally reveal little about how information is sorted, prioritized, and disseminated. As a researcher, one must be mindful that data, particularly qualitative data, collected from social media sites may not be random, representative, or generalizable. In addition, attendant to studying the Internet are unique ethical and privacy concerns not present in non-virtual fora. Many describe the Internet as a public sphere, and law enforcement often treats the online environment as a location in which Fourth Amendment privacy protections can be less rigorously observed. For researchers, however, it is essential to carefully consider whether the study of online discourse is archival or is human subjects research, and in the case of the latter, whether and how consent might be obtained. It is also important that researchers are attentive to the particular characteristics of the online site or sites they choose to examine, as the mission, rules, and practices of each site vary dramatically.


The Eurogang Program of Research  

Finn-Aage Esbensen and Cheryl L. Maxson

The Eurogang Program of Research is a loosely knit network of researchers and policymakers with an interest in better understanding troublesome youth groups. While the group is guided by a steering committee, that is the extent of the organizational structure. Members of the network volunteer to host the website, maintain the electronic mail service, organize workshops, and engage in research that adopts the Eurogang definition, instruments, and methodologies. The Eurogang Program has as its primary goal the fostering of multisite, multi-method, comparative research on street gangs. Since 2000, this group of more than 200 scholars has convened 21 international workshops in Europe and the United States. The Eurogang Program does not have a steady funding source; however, over the years various network members have written proposals for funding to government agencies, sought support from non-profit organizations and foundations, and requested funding from their universities. Through a series of workshops from 1998 through 2004, the Eurogang group developed common definitional approaches, an integrated research design, and model research instruments. From 2005 through 2023, the group has continued to host substantively focused workshops that examine research informed by the Eurogang framework. Since its inception, this Eurogang group has spawned several retrospective cross-national studies, articles in professional journals, six edited volumes of scholarship, and a manual that provides a history of the group and its guiding principles as well as information on the development and use of the five Eurogang research instruments (i.e., city-level descriptors, expert survey, youth survey, ethnography guidelines, and prevention/intervention program inventory). The Eurogang Program Manual and instruments are available on the Eurogang website. While much has been accomplished, much remains to be learned.


Offenders of Environmental Crimes  

Rita Faria

Criminology was born from the political and scientific project of producing evidence-based knowledge about a particular kind of subject: the criminal. This evasive topic of inquiry has driven orthodox and positivistic criminology to look for risk factors, situational clues, criminal scripts, opportunities for crime, and so on. But critiques of such approach have noted how the framework of criminal action and motivation—that is: crime—ought to be analyzed from a social constructionist perspective rather than by mere reified, legal notions. In green criminology scholarship, environmental harms and crimes have been critically debated, and it is fairly accepted that, while necessary, legalistic approaches to environmental offenses would not suffice due to their ethnocentric perspective of life, social order, and justice. However, in green criminology, evidence-based and critical debates about the environmental offender are somehow lagging. There has been a growth of research devoted to understanding environmental offending and ways to react to it, and more data about offenders is being collected, with authors now in a better position to inform about the features of those who commit environmental offenses and harms. However, a closer look at the bulk of literature reveals that green criminology has been looking at a hard-to-grasp reality, composed of a multitude of actors (and respective actions) that include individual offenders, as well as criminal networks, and legitimate organizations such as corporations and states—all of which should be envisioned as complex systems that interact with particular surroundings and contexts, moved by specific values and (sub)cultural norms. Trying to convey this multitude into one article is not an easy job and, overall, the complexity of environmental offenses reveals the multifaceted nature of offenders and the multilayered causes and motives of behaviors that harm the environment or break those laws and regulations dedicated to protecting nonhuman species, habitats, or the environment as a whole.


Visual Criminology in International and Comparative Context  

Stefan Machura

Visual criminology concerns itself with how crimes and society’s reaction to crime appear visually and how such representations are perceived. In a Durkheimian view, individuals look out for signs that the social order is upheld or undermined by crime. In doing so, visual criminology observes, they react to visual cues such as the appearance of their environment, photos in news media, and the combination of moving pictures and sound on TV and social media. Attempts to reduce harm and to change structures also often express themselves visually. Sight and sound often go together, and sometimes further sensual impressions are impacting on the recipient. In a society ever more saturated by visual and audio-visual media, criminology has to engage with the visual. Therefore, visual criminology will be of use to researchers from all the different strands within criminology, even if up until now most of the contributions come from anglophone countries. As varied as the visual manifestations of crime and the response to crime are the research methods employed by visual criminology. They include making respondents react to the stimulus provided by photos, the interpretation of “found” pictures and even criminologists involving themselves in the production of audio-visual media, like TV shows or films. In this way, visual criminologists have arrived at insights that they would not have gained otherwise. Visual criminology will form an important addition to the work of criminologists, especially those who wish to engage with the new ways in which people communicate about crime, and across the globe.