Meta-analysis in Criminology

Travis Pratt

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:
Meta-analysis in Criminology

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The empirical status of the research on any particular topic in criminology is usually established through the traditional narrative review of the research literature. In this method, studies are described discursively and afforded relative importance determined by the reviewer. These reviews can be especially useful since, if focused on the details of the studies, they may yield special insights and illuminate new pathways for future research. Such narrative reviews do, however, depend on the judgment of their authors to tell the reader what the research shows. Furthermore, when the research findings are mixed—with some studies finding significant results while others do not—there can be a legitimate dispute over what the body of research “really says.” In such cases, a range of biases may creep into the discussion and influence the lens through which the body of research is perceived. Indeed, conflicting interpretations of the existing empirical evidence on a given research question are not uncommon, and even consistent interpretations could conceivably be attributable to similar biases and misreadings of the literature. Finally, the variability in study outcomes makes it difficult to falsify a given thesis or theory. Thus, there is the potential for ideas to linger on longer than they should, not because they have scientific merit, but rather because the imprecise way in which knowledge is organized in a narrative review leaves the door open for bad ideas still to claim empirical legitimacy if studies supporting those ideas can still be located. As an alternative to the traditional narrative review, meta-analysis entails the quantitative synthesis of empirical literature. Meta-analysis attempts to integrate the findings of multiple independent tests of a similar hypothesis in a more objective manner by treating the empirical study as the unit of analysis. Researchers may then draw inferences based on the effect size (or predictive capacity) of relationships between variables. What follows here is an overview of the major sources for meta-analysis within criminology.

Article.  6272 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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