A Content Analysis of Qualitative Research Published in Top Criminology and Criminal Justice Journals from 2010 to 2019

Abstract

With the growth of qualitative research within the fields of criminology and criminal justice (CCJ) it is important to examine discipline standards and expectations of how to collect and analyze qualitative data and to present research findings. Our aim here is to assess qualitative research published in 17 top CCJ journals during the period of 2010 to 2019. We found that the number of qualitative articles published in these years increased over the previous two decades; however, the relative percentage of all articles remained relatively stable. During this period, 11.3% of all articles in the 17 CCJ journals used qualitative methods. In addition, we provide general patterns related to methodology and to presentation of findings. The results give insights into discipline standards and expectations and points to substantive areas that are under-studied (e.g., victims) and to issues relating to methodological transparency.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For the current analysis we include only articles that used interviews or observations with participants. We exclude content analysis of existing documents (including online forums) and qualitative responses to questionnaires.

  2. 2.

    Only articles listed as “Research Articles” were included in the total number count. We excluded those listed as Editorials and Policy Responses.

  3. 3.

    We included only those articles that explicitly addressed crime, victimization, and criminal justice processes or actors in determining the overall article count and total qualitative articles. We excluded articles that focused solely on non-criminal or non-criminal justice topics (e.g., sexual deviance, student cheating, etc.).

  4. 4.

    We only included articles that appeared in the Criminology, and not the Criminal Law, Comments, or Symposia sections.

  5. 5.

    We included articles published in general issues as well as special or thematic issues, some of which involved a guest editor. None of the special issues revolved around themes that precluded or prescribed articles based on qualitative data collection.

  6. 6.

    We make no claim as to whether these articles are “better” or more deserving of this attention. We simply state that because of their high profile they may influence authors more than articles in other journals.

  7. 7.

    This sampling threshold was chosen to allow for a robust yet manageable number of articles to be included in the analysis.

  8. 8.

    When determining sample size for focus groups we included the total number of participants who were included in all focus groups.

  9. 9.

    We only coded an article as not recorded if the authors specifically mentioned that they chose not to record interviews

  10. 10.

    We recognize that including these five as top tier is an artificial ranking and that others (i.e., criminologists in non-US countries) likely have different assessments of top tier journals.

  11. 11.

    For victims who experienced both sexual and physical victimization we classified them as “sex crimes.”

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Correspondence to Heith Copes.

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Copes, H., Beaton, B., Ayeni, D. et al. A Content Analysis of Qualitative Research Published in Top Criminology and Criminal Justice Journals from 2010 to 2019. Am J Crim Just (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-020-09540-6

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Keywords

  • Qualitative research
  • Ethnographic research
  • Content analysis