Critical Evaluation Essay Example

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Critical Evaluation

Student`s Name

Ethical Issues in Criminology

According to Israel (2005), there are four main ethical issues in criminology that confronts social scientists. These issues includes: informed consent, confidentiality, various relationships, and harms and benefits. Even though some of these issues confront criminologists, the same issues also affect anthropologists, sociologists, educational researchers, psychologists and qualitative health researchers. Most of these ethical issues that these other researchers occasionally face are day to day ethical issues faced by criminological researchers. Bachman and Schutt (2012) explained that these issues relate to the sensitivity of the subject matter, susceptibility of those involved in the research, the attitudes of crime offenders’ institutions towards such research and the powerful positions that some state and corporate bodies hold which make it difficult to conduct research on them. They further pointed out that some of these positions make it hard to investigate the conduct of these officials because the complexity of their work. These issues pose major problems to the researchers because they determine the quality and accuracy of the research.

Research case study 1

You have obtained a research grant to interview a sample of 50 young men (aged 14 to 18 years) about their experiences and attitudes to violence, both as perpetrators and as victims. The face-to-face interviews will be conducted at a variety of locations, including the homes of the young men. During the research, many of the young men revealed that they had committed violent acts, including four young men who informed the interviewers that they had been involved in homicides. In many cases, the young men had not been arrested for their violence, including those who had revealed involvement in homicide”.

In the first case study, an important ethical issue that emerges is confidentiality. This is brought about by the fact that the research is conducted on young men who are aged between 14 and 18 years. This means that there were definitely a number of interviewees who did not understand the possible risks and benefits which come with revealing such information. From the study, it can also be seen that most of the respondents were concerned with the confidentiality of the information they were giving. This is brought out by the fact that there might have been more than four respondents who had been involved in homicides but they could not reveal the sensitive information to the researcher due to confidentiality issues. According to a study by Webb (2008), conducting research on juvenile offenders is likely to raise more confidentiality concerns mainly on accountability and community interests.

The fact that the research in case study one was conducted through face-to-face interviews brings about privacy issues among the respondents. This is because some respondents can not be willing to share their life experiences especially those about their criminal records with strangers through interviews. Other methods of data collection such as telephone interviews or questionnaires would have been more appropriate because the respondents would have been more confident and hence provide more accurate results.

Most of the respondents within the age bracket of 14 and 18 may not be in a position to understand the National Statement requirements and hence end up providing information without their full knowledge. This is because the National Statement states that the researcher must obtain the voluntary and informed consent of the participants. Prior information should be provided by the researcher so that the participants will be well informed of the requirements and importance of the research (Isreal, 2004). This will ensure that the respondents are aware of the requirements and implications that may arise from the information they provided. Consequently they will give information on their own will and consent and hence improve the accuracy and quality of the research findings.

Another ethical issue evident in case study one is that of the harms and benefits. The researcher does not take into consideration the possible harms that may happen to the respondents because there are no measures in place to minimise risk which may occur to them. However, the researcher aims at benefiting the society from the finding of the study. This is because of the sensitive issue on criminology which involves serious crimes such as homicides and violence acts. These are critical crimes which affect the whole society and should be handled with the care they deserve.

Research case study 2

As you are interested in alcohol, drugs and violence, you get a part-time job as a bouncer at a local club. After working there for three months, you decide to conduct a research project on the expression of violence in clubs. To do this, during your shifts, you start taking notes covertly about the behaviour of patrons at the club. In some shifts, you yourself become involved in violent incidents as part of your role as a bouncer”.

In case study two, the researcher who apparently happens to be the bouncer in the local club decides to conduct research on alcohol, drugs and violence. However, the researcher has no permission from the authorities to carry out the research. This is in line with the National Statement which states that the researcher should have the consent of the participants to conduct the research on them and the use of the information obtained. The research was also conducted without the informed consent of the respondents. This is because researchers must inform the interviewees of the research being conducted, its benefits, the risks as well as the discomfort of interview (Maxfield & Babbie, 2010). This is because of the possibility that a participant in the research may find it difficult to accept to take part in the research due to being labelled by the justice system. Consequently the intended purpose of the research may not be realised because the participant may be forced to hold back potential harmful information.

It is also evident that in the second case the respondent obtained data with no consent of the informant. This also contravenes the National Statement requirements that require voluntary consent of the participants in the research. Maxfield & Babbie (2010) argued that this is because according to the principle of informed consent participants in the research should know the implications that come with being involved in the research. The National Statement further states that participants may be provided with a list of their entitlements and information which they can choose to request from the researcher. The harms and benefits issue is also witnessed in this case study where the researcher is concerned with the harms that the participants may cause to the society. Issues of drugs, alcohol and violence are being investigated in the research and its findings will be of benefit to the society or criminal justice institutions.

These issues are important ethical concerns in conducting research on criminology because of the sensitive nature of the research. Criminological research involves serious crimes such as corruption, homicide, drugs, violence and murder, among others. Eliciting of such sensitive information might disturb the participants and the society, hence makes the matter important ethical issue. Maxfield and Babbie (2010) also argued that conflicts of interest may arise from carrying out such research. Conflicts of interest for research researchers in this field are likely to occur from gaining of such detailed information.

These issues are also of great concert in criminological research because of the confidentiality and possible subpoena which might arise in the handling and use of research findings. This is brought about by the need to have strategies to use in order to deal with possibility of subpoena. These include adoption of methodological measures and legal strategy.

If the research was conducted on the experiences and attitudes of police officers to violence, the above ethical issues would not change. This is because similar crimes are being investigated and the possible involvement of the police officers in crimes. Police officers may not be free with the researchers due to confidentiality issues for fear of being victimised by their seniors (Mazerolle, Anrobus, Bennett & Tyler, 2013). The research would be of benefit to the society because the findings would be useful in monitoring crimes in the society. The respondents are law enforcers and hence would ensure that they follow informed-consent rules hence will be aware of the risks and benefits associated with the interview. The position that the police hold can also hinder efficient interview affecting the carrying out of the research.

If the researcher was standing in the street at night conducting the research, similar ethical issues would be of concern again. This is because the information would be collected without the consent of the respondents contrary to the National Statement requirements. The researcher has an obligation to submit the report of the findings, a move which will compromise the desires of their funding agency. There are also confidentiality issues which require the respondents to provide criminal and other relevant subversive activity. This means that conducting such research would still have ethical concerns that need to be addressed.

In conclusion, research on criminological activities involves observation of ethical issues which affect both the participants and the community. These are concerns which determine the success of the research and quality of the findings. The use of interviews requires that the researcher briefs respondents on the possible benefits and harm which may arise from giving out their information. It is therefore, important to consider the ethical concerns while carrying out research especially on criminology.


Bachman, R. & Schutt, R. (2012). Fundamentals of Research in Criminology and Criminal

Justice, (2nd Ed). New York; NY: SAGE Publications, Inc

Isreal, M. (2004). Ethics and the Governance of Criminological Research in Australia.

Sydney: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

Maxfield, G. & Babbie, E. (2010). Research Methods for Criminal Justice and Criminology.

Cambridge, CA: Cengage Learning.

Mazerolle, L., Anrobus, E., Bennett, S., Tyler, T. (2013). Shaping Citizen Perceptions of

Police Legitimacy: A Randomized Field Trial of Procedural Justice. Criminology


Webb, P. (2008). Privacy or publicity: Media coverage and juvenile justice proceedings in the United States. International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences, 3(1), 1-14.