Past Theory-Methods Comprehensive Exam Questions February 2012

Theory/Methods Comprehensive Examination
February, 2012
Answer one (1) question under each section.
Section 1.
Theories of criminal behavior are tested through the use of cross sectional and/or
longitudinal methods. Using any theory in criminology as a discussion platform, explore
the implications of the following questions:
Is the theory largely supported through one type of method?
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the two methods?
What impact does the type of method used have on the results?
If you were going to design an empirical test, what type of method would you
How would this contribute to the body of knowledge in this theory and in the
discipline, and what would the unique contribution of your work be to the field?
Robert Sampson (2002: 219) lamented that one of criminology’s greatest weaknesses is
designing good research, stating that “as a field, we are characterized by sophisticated
statistical analysis of weak or fundamentally flawed data.” Using any theory of crime
causation, briefly define the theory. Next, how have researchers measured crime for this
theory and why might these measures be considered to be “weak or fundamentally
flawed”? Next, develop how you would improve measurement of crime. Defend your
answer. Finally, which methods would you use to test the theory (including the type of
design, statistical analyses, etc). Why would these methods be the best approach?
Section 2.
Theory/Methods Integration
Research Methods
The cycle of violence theory proposes that individuals who experience violence in their
own pasts (e.g., domestic abuse, sexual abuse, history of family violence, etc.) may be
likely to repeat a pattern of abuse in the form of domestic violence. Your task is to
propose a QUANTITATIVE research design to test this relationship. 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?
For your dissertation, you have decided to undertake an examination of the amount and
type of delinquency in the Fargo, West Fargo, and Moorhead Public School systems and
you have been granted access to these students. You have decided to focus on the
relative influences of strain, social learning, and self control on their delinquency. Your
committee has asked you how you will measure each of your variables. In addressing
their question, be sure to explain: (1) what or measures of your independent and
dependent variables you would employ; (2) the strengths of these measures; and (3) the
limitations of these measures. Finally, explain why you did not select other methods of
measuring these variables for your dissertation. Be sure to cite the relevant literature in
your answer.
Section 3.
Individual Crime Theories
In his 2010 Sutherland address (Criminology, May 2011), Cullen advocated that the field
shift away from a focus on adolescent limited criminology because this approach had
become bankrupt. What did Cullen mean by this? Do you agree or disagree with this
statement? Defend your response. What did Cullen advocate as a replacement for
adolescent limited criminology? That is, where should the focus of the field be
theoretically and methodologically?
Traditionally, criminology had examined the etiology of crime as a “nature v. nurture”
dichotomy. More recently, however, numerous theorists decry this dichotomy as a false
one and that the two are intricately linked together in crime causation. First, trace the
origins of the biological approaches, comparing the initial examinations to the current
biosocial approaches. Next, using the relevant literature to defend your reasoning, argue
whether this dichotomy is a false one or not. Finally, what solutions to crime do these
theories suggest?
Section 4.
Structural Crime Theories
Almost everybody knows that violent crime rates tend to be much higher in
neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty, yet despite more than a century of research
the true meaning of this association remains ambiguous.
Summarize the possible theoretical interpretations of the link between neighborhood
poverty rates and levels of violence and assess which of these interpretations has the most
support in the literature.
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