Seeing ourselves: Exploring the social production of criminological knowledge in a qualitative methods course

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Journal of Criminal Justice Education


In comparison with its quantitative counterpart, the teaching of qualitative methods in criminology and criminal justice has been largely neglected. Part of the explanation for this neglect is a widespread recognition that access to appropriate study sites is dangerous and difficult. Student researchers cannot rush the delicate process of penetrating a hidden or deviant population; nor can they magically comprehend the inner workings of the criminal justice bureaucracy to meet course deadlines. During winter semester 1994, the senior author attempted to overcome these problems by assigning advanced honors students to study the social production of criminological knowledge in their own department, using the standard tools of qualitative research: participant observation and interviewing. This article reports on what was learned during the planning and teaching of that course. In doing so, it draws directly on field notes and other materials produced by both the students and the instructor as part of the required research exercise.



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