Adventures in Criminal Justice Research: Data Analysis Using SPSS 15.0 and 16.0 for Windows

Books

Kim A. Logio, George W. Dowdall, Earl R. Babbie & Fred S. Halley

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Dedication

    To our students, past, present, and future, and to Jim, Nolan, Owen, and Isabel; Nathan, Olivia, Nina, and Rob; Aaron, Ara, and Evie; and Matthew, Mark, Meghan, Mitchell, and Karris.

    Copyright

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    Preface for Instructors

    This book is offered with a number of aims in mind. To begin, we want to introduce students to the logic of criminal justice research, particularly survey research. Furthermore, we present the essentials of using SPSSTM as a vehicle for putting that logic into practice. As we pursue these twin goals, however, there are a number of agendas in the background of this book. For example, students who complete the book will have learned a very useful, employable skill. Increasingly, job applicants are asked about their facility with various computer programs, such as word processing, spreadsheets, and data analysis. SPSS is the most popular professional program available for criminal justice data analysis, hence our choice of it as a vehicle for teaching criminal justice research.

    A Focus on Developing Professional and Intellectual Skills

    What sets this book apart from others that teach SPSS or similar programs is that we cast that particular skill in the context of criminal justice research as a logical enterprise. In addition to learning the use of SPSS, students are learning the intellectual skills of conceptualization, measurement, and association. Those who know only SPSS can assist in data analysis, but our intention is that students will also be able to think for themselves, mapping out analytic paths into the understanding of criminal justice data. As they polish these intellectual skills, they should be able to progress to higher levels of research and to the administration of research enterprises.

    Increasingly, educators are being challenged to demonstrate the practical value of instruction in criminal justice and the social sciences no less than in other fields. Too often, overreaction to this demand results in superficial vocational courses that offer no intellectual meaning or courses hastily contrived as a vehicle for current buzzwords, whose popularity often is short-lived. We are excited to be able to offer an educational experience that is genuinely practical for students and that also represents an intellectual adventure.

    Educators who have taught methods or statistics courses typically find themselves with the daunting task of igniting their often unwilling students with the fire of enthusiasm they themselves feel for the detective work of criminal justice research. In this book, we seek to engage students' curiosity by setting them about the task of understanding issues that are already points of interest for them, topics such as college student drug and alcohol abuse, criminal and juvenile justice systems across the American states, political attitudes, and abortion. For many of our readers, we imagine that mathematical analysis still smacks of trains leaving point A and point B at different speeds.

    Now they are going to learn that a familiarity with the logic and mathematics of criminal justice research can let them shine the light of understanding on some of the dark turbulence of opinion and hysteria. We do not tell students about opinions on abortion as much as we show them how to find out for themselves. We think that will get students to point C ahead of either of the trains.

    A Focus on Active Learning

    Because we are teaching students to learn for themselves, this book offers a good example of what educators call active learning. We have set up all the exercises so that students will be executing the same SPSS operations we are discussing at any given point. Although we may give them some answers to assure them that they are on the right track, we leave them on their own often enough to require that they do the work rather than simply read about it. Finally, the culture of personal computers has been one of collaborative learning from its very beginning. Perhaps more than people in any other field, computer users have always delighted in sharing what they know with others. There is probably no better context in which to ask for help: Those who know the answer are quick to respond, and those who don't often turn their attention to finding an answer delight in the challenge.

    We imagine that students will want to work together as they progress through this book. That has been our experience in student testing and in courses we've taught involving computers. We suggest that you encourage cooperation between students; we are certain that they will learn more that way and will enjoy the course more. In fact, those who are initially intimidated by computers should be encouraged to find buddies to work with.

    We've designed this book to support students' first hands-on course in criminal justice research. If they have had earlier introductory methods or statistics courses, they will probably come to this book at full speed, but those who have never taken a methods or statistics course can easily make it through this book. At the same time, it is not too elementary for graduate students who are having their first direct experience with criminal justice research.

    The Web site contains quizzes and independent projects to go with each chapter. These can be used as assignments for class, in lab, as homework, or simply as study aids for students.

    The Book and the Accompanying Web Site: What's Included?

    This book and its accompanying Web site contain everything students need, except for the SPSS software itself. The data on the Web are for use with SPSS version 15.0 or higher (including the student version) for Windows. Among the data sets we've included on the Web site is one with variables from the 2004 General Social Survey (GSS). Another includes a sample (n = 1,400) from the 1993 Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study. Others include the Monitoring the Future data and the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

    As you will see, the data sets cover a broad terrain, although we've provided for some in-depth analysis in a few instances. In addition to working their way through the exercises presented in the book, students will be able to find original lines of inquiry that grow out of their own interests and insights.

    Using the GSS or any of the other data sets from the Web site is easy. After saving the file from the Web site to your computer, simply start SPSS for Windows and click the sequence to display the “Open File” window. Find the location where you saved the data file and open it. In a few seconds, SPSS will display the GSS data in its data window. Specific instructions on using SPSS with these data are provided in later chapters, as are suggestions for using the other data sets we've included on the Web site. In Chapter 3, we instruct the students to back up “2004GSS.SAV” to another storage medium.

    SPSS for Windows comes with extensive help screens. They are almost like having a coach built into your computer. To use them, simply click on “Help” when you get stuck. You will notice that some key words are green in the help screens. If you click your mouse on a green word, SPSS will take you to a screen that gives you more information related to your problem.

    At the top of most help screens is the option “Search.” Clicking on it will give you a menu of SPSS commands and topics. Clicking on any one of them will display help screens specific to that particular command or topic. Also, at the top of most help screens is the option “Back.” Clicking on “Back” takes you to the previous help screen. Using “Back” allows you to back out of a series of help screens if you find that your choices have led you to a dead end.

    The World Wide Web Site

    The World Wide Web site for this text has other data sets for use throughout the book or for students' independent research projects. There are also quizzes and projects that can be assigned or completed in class.

    Software Support and Service

    If you or your students run into any problems using this package, several sources of support should serve your needs. College and university computing centers often have student assistants who are very helpful to new computer users. In fact, most academic computing centers employ a user service coordinator who can help faculty plan student use of the school's computers and provide aid when problems arise. If you can't find local help to solve a problem, you can call Fred Halley at Socware, Inc., in Brockport, New York, at (716) 352-1986. Or you can send e-mail to Kim Logio at logio@sju.edu or call her at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia at (610) 660-1685. If you get the answering machine, please leave a time and phone number where you can be reached. And as a last resort, you can go to http://spss.com or call SPSS, Inc., in Chicago for technical support at (312) 651-3410. Be forewarned that SPSS can't give assistance with pedagogical or substantive problems and that you may have a long wait in a telephone queue for your turn to talk to a technical support person. It has been our experience that the best help comes from local resources.

    Acknowledgments

    We would like to acknowledge a number of people who have been instrumental in making this book a reality. First and foremost, Jerry Westby and Elise Smith of Pine Forge Press have been full partners from start to finish. And we are grateful for Steve Rutter's work in getting this book started. The criminal justice students, faculty, and staff at Saint Joseph's University were very helpful in supporting this project, with particular thanks extended to Corissa Williams and Enrico Capitan. The book could not have been completed without the support of Jim Rau and Jean Dowdall.

    We would also like to thank the many reviewers who helped us along the way, including Kelly R. Damphousse, University of Oklahoma; Christina DeJong, Michigan State University; Adam M. Bossler, Armstrong Atlantic State University; James R. Maupin, New Mexico State University; Elaine Gunnison, Seattle University; Susan Hilal, University of Wisconsin–Platteville; Aviva Twersky Glasner, Bridgewater State College; Wayne Gillespie, East Tennessee State University; Karen F. Parker, University of Florida; Jeffrey D. Monroe, Pennsylvania State University–Abington; Darryl Wood, University of Alaska–Anchorage; and Debra S. Kelley Longwood College.

    We reserve our final acknowledgment for our students, to whom this book is dedicated, with special thanks to the undergraduate and graduate students in criminal justice at Saint Joseph's University. We recognize that we've often asked them to think and do things they sometimes felt were beyond their abilities. We have admired their courage for trying anyway, and we have shared in their growth.

    About the Authors

    Kim A. Logio is an assistant professor of sociology at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. She teaches research methods for sociology and criminal justice students. She is actively involved in research on victims of juvenile crime and on adolescent body image. Her work has been presented at meetings of the American Sociological Association and of the American Public Health Association. She has also spoken at the Society for the Study of Social Problems on guiding students through the research process.

    George W. Dowdall is a professor of sociology at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate criminal justice and sociology. He was chair of the American Sociological Association's Section on Communication and Information Technologies. He has taught methods, statistics, and data analysis courses at Saint Joseph's University, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Brown University School of Medicine.

    Earl R. (Robert) Babbie is a professor of sociology at Chapman University. He is best known for his many texts on research methods and introductory sociology, which have been adopted throughout the United States and the world.

    Fred S. Halley is an associate professor of sociology at the State University of New York College at Brockport and has been developing computer-based tools for teaching social science since 1970. He has served as a collegewide social science computer consultant, has directed Brockport's Institute for Social Research, and now directs the college's Data Analysis Laboratory.

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