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Published onMay 29, 2020

My methodological papers explore why research actually unfolds as it does (i.e., not just how it "should" be done), how this shapes criminological ideas, and the consequences for crime and control in the real world. This is what I refer to as "theorizing method." 

Learning from Criminals

Topalli, Volkan, Timothy Dickinson, and Scott Jacques. 2020. Learning from Criminals: Active Offender Research for Criminology. Annual Review of Criminology 3:189-215.​

Publisher version is open access

Abstract: Active offender research relies on the collection of data from noninstitutionalized criminals and has made significant contributions to our understanding of the etiology of serious crime. This review covers its history as well as its methodological, scientific, and ethical pitfalls and advantages. Because study subjects are currently and freely engaging in crime at the time of data collection, their memories, attitudes, and feelings about their criminality and specific criminal events are rich, detailed, and accurate. Contemporary approaches to active offender research employ systematized formats for data collection and analysis that improve the validity of findings and help illuminate the foreground of crime. Although active offender research has traditionally relied on qualitative techniques, we outline the potential for it to make contributions via mixed methods, experiments, and emerging computational and technological approaches, such as virtual reality simulation studies and agent-based modeling.

Lost in the Park

Bonomo, Elizabeth, and Scott Jacques. 2019. Lost in the Park: Learning to Navigate the Unpredictability of Fieldwork. Chapter 2 in Ethnography Uncensored: Narratives of Research among Hidden Populations, eds. Rashi Shukla and Miriam Boeri. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. ​

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Abstract: None for this paper.

The Best Data on Criminal Events

Jacques, Scott. 2019. Which Source Possesses the Best Data on the Empirical Aspects of Criminal Events? A Theory of Opportunity and Necessary Conditions. Deviant Behavior 40:1543-1552.​

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Abstract: Offenders and nonoffenders possess valuable information about crime. But which possesses the best data? This is a complex issue, so I narrow my focus to data on empirical aspects of criminal events. Drawing on the necessary conditions perspective, I theorize that a source’s possession 1) of data varies directly with its involvement in cases; 2) of representative data varies inversely with nonrandom involvement in cases and nonrandom siphoning off from the larger group to which it belongs; and, 3) of accurate data varies inversely with time since involvement in cases. Those general principles suggest that offenders, especially active ones, possess the most data, representative data, and accurate data on empirical aspects of criminal events. I conclude by discussing the implications of those general principles for observation research, sources’ possession of subjective data, and their possession of empirical data on other criminological events, specifically victimization and policing.

Pairing Fieldworkers with Patrol Officers

Allen, Andrea, and Scott Jacques. 2018. Pairing Fieldworkers with Patrol Officers: A Study of Supervising Officers' Selections. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice 12:219-230.

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Abstract: Qualitative, field-based studies of police tend not to rely on random sampling, but, instead, navigate a well-trodden path to cases. The first step is gaining a supervising officer's (SO) consent to study their department, and the last step is convincing patrol officers (POs) to reveal what they normally do and think. Also, there is an indispensable intermediary step in which fieldworkers are paired with particular POs, a choice sometimes left up to SOs. Despite its importance, the basis on which such couplings are made is not well documented, much less understood. Thus, this article analyzes qualitative data obtained from nine SOs about why they assigned particular POs to accompany the first-author on ride-alongs. The SOs largely explained their assignments as meant to help the research by placing the fieldworker with POs who would yield more data in terms of quantity, variety, and 'better' answers. The article concludes by discussing the findings' broader implications.

Offenders’ Perspective on Crime Prevention

Jacques, Scott, and Elizabeth Bonomo. 2016. Learning from the Offenders’ Perspective on Crime Prevention. Chapter 2 in Crime Prevention in the 21st Century, eds. Benoit Leclerc and Ernesto U. Savona. New York: Springer.​

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Abstract: Criminals have a firsthand perspective on why and how to commit crime. In this chapter, we outline and illustrate five ways that offender-based research can be used to inform understanding of crime prevention, more specifically situational crime prevention: namely (1) by directly determining what works to reduce crime; (2) generating findings that are suggestive of what prevention measures to invent and employ; (3) refining understanding of why a given prevention method reduces crime; (4) figuring out how offenders get around particular prevention measures; and (5) gathering information on not only the positive but also the unintended, negative outcomes of prevention procedures. We conclude by discussing the choices involved in conducting offender-based research for the betterment of situational crime prevention.

Interviewing Offenders

Copes, Heith, Scott Jacques, Andrew Hochstetler, and Timothy Dickinson. 2015. Interviewing Offenders: The Active vs. Inmate Debate. Chapter 11 in Routledge Handbook of Qualitative Criminology, eds. Heith Copes and J. Mitchell Miller. London, UK: Routledge.​

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Abstract: Criminologists have a long history of interviewing those engaged in illegal behaviors to gain insights into the nature of crime and criminality (Bennett, 1981). Ethnographic interviews give offenders the opportunity to explain their offenses and lifestyles from their own perspectives. This glimpse into offenders’ worlds facilitates theoretical explanations of criminal behavior and provides valuable data to policymakers. Indeed, few would argue against the idea that posing open-ended questions to offenders is important for a full understanding of crime and criminality.

Future of Qualitative Research

Wright, Richard, Scott Jacques, and Michael Stein. 2015. Where Are We? Why Are We Here? Where Are We Going? How Do We Get There? The Future of Qualitative Research in American Criminology. Advances in Criminological Theory 20:339-350.​

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Abstract: This chapter explores the following questions: Why has quantitative research achieved dominance in American criminology, and what implications does this have for the future of qualitative criminological research? It outlines the ways in which quantitative criminology's adoption of the epistemological assumptions and workplace practices of the physical sciences have served to promote its reputation as representing real science. The chapter describes a broader conceptualization of science that recognizes the centrality of qualitative research in the advancement of scientific knowledge. It discusses the adoption of a more inclusive conceptualization of qualitative criminological research that emphasizes its important place in the scientific study of crime and control. Finally, the chapter proposes that qualitative criminological researchers should adopt some of the workplace practices underpinning the dominance of their quantitative counterparts, while capitalizing on the unique strengths of their own disciplinary approach.

Seeing the Offenders’ Perspective

Jacques, Scott, Nicole Lasky, and Bonnie Fisher. 2015. Seeing the Offenders’ Perspective through the Eye-Tracking Device: Methodological Insights from a Study of Shoplifters. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 31:449-467.​

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Abstract: This article examines the utility of a novel tool for conducting offender-based research: the “eye-tracking device” (ETD), which is designed to identify what a person sees in the center of his or her vision. First, we review prior research using the ETD. Second, we detail the advantages and troubles we encountered when using it to study simulated shoplifting in retail outlets among 39 active offenders. Benefits of using the ETD include video recording what participants look at, which may serve as quantitative or qualitative data, and, when coupled with a questionnaire, the video footage may be used as a memory prompt and source of verification. Thus, using the ETD should reduce two sources of measurement bias: participants’ limited recall and intentional fabrication. However, limitations of the ETD are that it may inaccurately record what participants see in their peripheral vision and its physical structure makes some participants feel more inconspicuous than usual, both of which are pertinent to criminals’ attempts to avoid apprehension. The peripheral vision problem limits the quantitative output’s validity, whereas the physical structure concern potentially diminishes the generalizability of results. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings for theory and research.

Quantitative-Qualitative Divide

Jacques, Scott. 2014. The Quantitative-Qualitative Divide in Criminology: A Theory of Ideas’ Importance, Attractiveness, and Publication. Theoretical Criminology 18:317-334.​

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Abstract: Qualitative research is published in criminology journals at a frequency far smaller than that of quantitative research. The question is Why?' After reviewing existing theories of the discrepancy, this article draws on the paradigm of Blackian sociology, Jacques and colleagues' theory of method, and Black's theory of ideas to propose a new theory: compared to quantitative research-based ideas, qualitative ones are evaluated as less important and therefore published less often in journalsbecause they place the subject closer in cultural distance to the source and audience, though for that same reason they are also evaluated as being more attractive. Implications for criminology are discussed.

Ironies of Crime, Control, & Criminology

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2012. Ironies of Crime, Control, and Criminology. Critical Criminology 20:153-167.​

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Abstract: Irony is a kind of communication in which shared knowledge about a particular context is formed as a counter-intuitive statement with hidden meaning. Irony is important because it branches the tree of knowledge and balances morality. This paper reviews the definition and value of irony; examines ironic works on crime and control; proposes an irony of criminology: it can be studied with science and thereby improved; draws on this idea to provide a method-based theory of theory and findings; and concludes by discussing implications for future work in reflexive criminology.

Foreign Fieldworkers & Native Participants

Jacques, Scott, Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard, and Jean-Louis van Gelder. 2011. Foreign Fieldworkers and Native Participants: A Theory of Method. Victims & Offenders 6:246-259.

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Abstract: Foreign fieldwork often comes with vast cultural differences between the researcher and participants. Such differences have implications for the success and findings of research. In this paper, we draw on our experiences doing fieldwork abroad to propose a theory of method. We suggest that as cultural distance increases, what is communicated by a participant (1) increasingly reflects assumptions about the researcher's culture, (2) decreasingly reflects the participant's own culture, and (3) becomes more righteous. The paper concludes by using the proposed theory to suggest practical suggestions that criminologists may employ to improve their research abroad.

Dangerous Intimacy

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2010. Dangerous Intimacy: Toward a Theory of Violent Victimization in Active Offender Research. Journal of Criminal Justice Education 21:503-525.

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Abstract: Active offender research contributes to criminology, but a major concern for active offender researchers is that they will be victimized in the course of their work. With that concern in mind, experienced criminologists have recommended strategies for minimizing danger during research, but they have done so in a largely atheoretical manner. This paper calls for the development of a theory of violent victimization in active offender research, and poses the question: What determines the amount of violent victimization in such research? Answering this question is important because it has the potential to provide practical strategies for reducing victimization and, in turn, increasing the amount of research conducted and the number of insights that flow from it. This paper theorizes that active offender researchers are less likely to be threatened or physically harmed as they become more familiar with recruiters, criminals, and their relational ties. The paper concludes with a set of theoretically situated, practical tips for how criminologists might reduce the amount of violent victimization in active offender research.

Criminology as Social Control

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2010. Criminology as Social Control: Discriminatory Research and Its Role in the Reproduction of Social Inequalities. Crime, Law, & Social Change 53:383-396.

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Abstract: The law discriminates against low status offenders, but so too might criminologists during the course of their research. In this paper, we address the following question: Does the social status of lawbreakers have an effect on their likelihood of being recruited to offender-based research? The answer to this question is important for reasons that extend beyond academic criminology. If criminologists discriminate, then they themselves are active agents in the reproduction of social disadvantage. If criminology is to reduce inequality, the field must first identify and reduce discriminatory behavior within its own research community.

Theory of IRB’s (Dis)Approval of Research

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2010. Right or Wrong? Toward a Theory of IRBs’ (Dis)Approval of Research. Journal of Criminal Justice Education 21:42-59.

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Abstract: No one would disagree that scientific research has been unethical—even criminal—at times. Institutional review boards (IRBs) play a fundamental role in protecting people from unethical criminological research. At the same time, IRBs, as social entities, are subject to a wide range of influences that may affect their decisions regarding the ethicality of research. This research note draws on the paradigm of pure sociology and the logic underpinning Black’s theory of law to propose a preliminary theory of IRBs’ (dis)approval of research. Specifically, it suggests that IRBs apply less social control to criminological research involving higher status researchers and lower status research participants and, therefore, those persons are more often involved in research. The paper concludes with theoretically situated, practical advice for how (1) IRBs can reduce their discrimination, and (2) criminological researchers can reduce IRBs’ disapproval of their projects and thereby increase their research output.

Apprehending Criminals

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright.  2010. Apprehending Criminals: The Impact of Law on Offender-Based Research. Chapter 3 in Offenders on Offending: Learning About Crime from Criminals, ed. Wim Bernasco. Cullompton, UK: Willan Publishing.

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Abstract: The past quarter century has witnessed the emergence of a rich methodological literature devoted to various ways of tapping into the offender’s perspective on crime. Whatever its virtues, that literature has remained almost wholly atheoretical. We recently introduced a preliminary theory of research grounded in the perspective of pure sociology. In this chapter we seek to extend that theory by examining how law and normative status affect offender-based research. We argue that as more law is applied to actors (i.e. as the normative status of persons or groups declines), the probability that those actors are recruited for offender-based research increases, the amount of remuneration provided to them for participation decreases and the quality of data obtained from them decreases. We conclude by offering theoretically situated, practical advice about the ways in which criminologists might maximise data while minimising costs associated with recruitment and remuneration.

Intimacy with Outlaws

Jacques, Scott, and Richard Wright. 2008. Intimacy with Outlaws: The Role of Relational Distance in Recruiting, Paying, and Interviewing Underworld Research Participants. Journal of Research in Crime & Delinquency 45:22–38.

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Abstract: The past quarter century has witnessed the emergence of a substantial literature devoted to the mechanics of recruiting, paying, and interviewing currently active offenders. Absent from that literature, however, is a theoretical framework within which to understand, test, modify, and further develop efforts to locate such offenders and gain their cooperation. This note, based on the authors' research with active drug sellers in Atlanta and St. Louis, explores the ways in which relational distance, that is, the nature and degree of intimacy between recruiter, interviewee, and researcher, affects the behavior of active offender research. The note concludes with theoretically situated, practical advice for (1) recruiting active criminals, (2) cost containment, and (3) maximizing the quantity and validity of data produced in interviews.


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