Past Theory-Methods Comprehensive Exam Questions February 2013

Theory/Methods Comprehensive exam – Feb. 2013
Answer one (1) question under each section.
Section 1. Theory/Methods Integration
1. Travis Hirschi developed social bonding theory (1969), and then co-developed selfcontrol theory. Despite the successes of self-control theory over nearly two decades,
Hirschi (2004) has recently called for a modification of how self-control is
conceptualized and measured. First, compare and contrast the two versions of selfcontrol theory – the 1990 and 2004 versions. Second, compare and contrast social
bonding theory (1969) with the reconceptualized self-control theory (2004). Third,
design a study (describing, e.g., sample, measures, and analytic design) that can provide a
test of which of the two versions of self-control theory (1990 versus 2004) is more
empirically validated.
2. Frank Cullen (see Cullen, 2011 Criminology, 49(2):287-330) critiqued the discipline as
having been dominated by a paradigm he referred to as “adolescence-limited
criminology” (ALC). Cullen claims that this paradigm has privileged the use of selfreport surveys of adolescents to test sociological theories of criminal behavior. Similarly,
in their award winning book, Mean Streets (1997, Cambridge), John Hagan and Bill
McCarthy also critique the discipline for its over-reliance on “school” criminology at the
expense of “street” criminology. Please (1) summarize Cullen’s argument (2) critically
assess the validity, strengths and weaknesses of this critique, and (3) take a position to
either (a) defend “school”/”adolescence-limited” criminology or (b) support this critique;
explain why you selected the position you have elected to take. Finally, given your
position (a or b) in element 3 above, describe how you would design a study to examine
armed robbery. Remember your research design must be consistent with your position.
Section 2. Research Methods
1. In his acceptance speech for the Vollmer Award, Howard Snyder argues that “as a discipline,
criminology must take the responsibility to communicate effectively the knowledge it creates
to practitioners and decision makers.” Recently, gun control and the links between guns and
homicides and other violence have been subject to heated debates. You have been tasked
with writing up a report regarding the causes of gun violence in America by the ND State
Legislature. To do this, you must first carry out a QUANTITATIVE research project to
study the causes.
The subsections below are provided to guide you in answering the question. Make sure that
you have included all of the information indicated in the subsections in your answer. Be
thorough and please number your answers to correspond to the various subsections.
Research Question
Provide a statement of your research question
State the hypothesis or hypotheses to be tested
List the conceptual definitions of the key variables (if your research
purpose is explanatory, clearly identify your independent and dependent
Sampling Design
Identify the population, sample, sampling frame, and sampling technique
Data Collection Technique(s)
Describe the instrument to be used
Provide operational definitions of the key variables, as well as identify the
level of measurement for each (be sure to provide a justification for using
particular levels of measurement)
Human Subject Protections
Identify any issues related to the use of human subjects/respondents
Measurement Quality
Describe the reliability and validity of the measures
Analysis Plan
Explain the appropriate statistical tests to be used and why?
2. Criminologists are often faced with various methods for comparing the effects of treatment(s)
on various outcomes. Treatments might take on the guise of a program, a law, or a specific
form of intervention. Discuss experimental and quasi-experimental strategies that can be
employed to assess the effect of a treatment on an outcome. Be sure to discuss in detail, the
formation and selection of groups for comparison. With each strategy you identify, list and
discuss its strengths and weaknesses.
Section 3. Individual Crime Theories
1. Exposure to delinquent/criminal peers has long been one of the most robust predictors of
offending, at the individual level. Several individual theories of crime either explicitly or
implicitly address the role of exposure to peers in their explanations of crime. Using
social learning theories and control theories, explain the foundation of each theory in
detail with a particular emphasis on how the role of peers operates within the context of
each theory. Next, discuss recent developments in the literature that have addressed the
peer effect through the lens of each theory an speculate on how the role of peers might
change in future tests/explanations of crime.
2. The notion that individuals are capable of selecting environments that are compatible
with their genetic disposition or personality traits has received recent attention. Discuss
two theories in criminology that are capable of explaining “niche picking behavior.”
Discuss how these theories see the triangulation of genetics, personality, and the
environment toward contributing to an explanation of criminality.
Section 4. Structural Crime Theories
1. Some criminologists argue that differences in neighborhood crime rates simply represent
the tendency for individuals with certain social, psychological, and demographic
characteristics to live in different parts of the city. From this perspective, it is not
necessary to consider the role of neighborhood structures and dynamics at all, for they are
simply aggregated proxies for processes that actually unfold at the individual level. That
is, for example, observed relationships between the level of community deprivation and
the crime rate actually represent the relationships between the economic status of
individuals and the level of their criminal involvement. Do you agree or disagree with
this proposition, and what theoretical and empirical evidence can you provide to support
your position?
2. Using the work of John Hagan on power-control theory, critical theorists like Colvin &
Pauly, Bonger, and Greenberg, and various feminist theorists, discuss this thesis: “Crime
cannot be adequately explained unless the nature of power in society is taken into