It is important during the research process that researchers, when they use data from agency records, be mindful of potential reliability and validity problems. “Follow the paper trail” and “Expect the expected” are two general principles researchers should use to guide them when using agency records in their research. Following the paper trail and expecting the expected are both actions that involve not only examining the data collected but also how it was collected. Having a good appreciation of how agency records are produced is the best way to avoid reliability and validity problems. Such problems can include clerical errors and changes in data collection procedures, social production of data (such as decisions by criminal justice personnel), agency data that are not designed for research (collected because the law requires it), tracking people rather than patterns (operational level, officials generally more interested in keeping track of individual cases than in examining patterns), and increases in error due to volume (the potential for clerical errors increases as the number of clerical entries increases).
For this discussion, select a current criminal justice or crime-related topic in your professional area of interest that has been the focus of news articles. Then respond to the following in your main post:
- Propose a content analysis strategy for this topic using newspaper articles or editorials as your units of analysis.
- Draft a problem statement for your selected topic.
- Identify your key independent and dependent variables.
- Define the population selection of the units of analysis, a sampling plan, and coding procedures for your key variables. You may use an article on this topic as the basis for developing your coding procedures test.