Qualitative and Quantitative Research on Fear of Crime: Rape

Research Portfolio


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The beginning of this portfolio will be introduced by two main types of crime data. They come in the form of qualitative and quantitative. They both show and represent crime in different way, and it also gives a clear idea of how crime has a big impact. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but this portfolio will examine their differences along with their similarities. They both have something to offer researchers and can also be mutually exclusive. Following this, the portfolio will include a personal observational experience that explores the process of effective data collecting. The method of observation has many strengths yet many flaws, and obtain qualitative data. This final part of the portfolio will also examine the sexual violence in relation to gender, with research to support it. It will use statistics to weight up and support the argument.

Portfolio Part 1: The Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitate Research.

There are two types of data when it comes to research; Qualitative and Quantitate. Quantitative data is the process of managing the natural world through a mathematical formula, especially statistics. Crowther (2007, p.72) suggests that ‘Quantification is, inescapably, about counting the number of cases. There is a belief that the number of cases provides a reliable measure of a particular aspect of the social world’. Quantitate data is fact and cannot be questioned; in contrast to this qualitative data is more difficult to define as it focuses on getting quality rich data that gives great understanding. One major debate of Qualitative research is whether statistics and numbers can tell us anything of important or substantial about social life. Crowther (2007, p.76) proposed that ‘Quantitative data does not capture the complexity of human experience. It is not possible to deal with human emotions and subjectivity. Statistics are not facts that exist independently of human interpretation: they can only be made meaningful as part of an interpretive process.’

Quantitate research tends to be on a relatively large scale, having large amounts of numerical data and using statistical procedures to analyse the data and reach conclusions; it tries to find ‘representative samples and generalizable finding’. In contrast to this qualitative research tends to have much smaller samples, and therefore is on a much smaller scale (Newburn, 2007, pp.898-899).Qualitative data is ‘large, unwieldy database of transcripts, fieldnotes and/or documents and the aim of this discussion is to explain how these data can be managed and analysed. However, unlike quantitative data, there can be no clear-cut and widely accepted ‘rules’ or procedures for qualitative analysis’ (Crowe and Semmens, 2006, p.176).

A Quantitative research method is surveys. They are extremely large scale and can be sent out to almost anyone, most people have participated in a survey in their lifetime. Surveys obtain data through a standardised questionnaire and although they are primarily used for large amounts of quantitative data, they can also have a qualitative element (Newburn, 2007, p.899). One of the most common form of survey is postal survey, they are extremely easy, cheap and simple. Postal surveys are self-completed, which may explain why the response rates are very low; even if someone may be interested in completing the survey they may just forget, as it is not a top priority. In contrast face-to-face interviews have a much greater compliance and also they can sort out any misunderstandings the participant may have about the questionnaire (Newburn, 2007, p.900). Telephone surveys are in the middle postal and interview surveys, as they are more personal than postal but less expensive than face to face. This method has practical issues, such as how will the researcher obtain the numbers to have generalised data? Even after overcoming this obstacle there is still the issue of mobile phones being turned off and going through to voicemail. The last type of survey of internet based surveys, they are also cheap and easy but like telephone surveys if depends on whether the researcher has the appropriate contact information like emails; internet based surveys also compare to postal surveys as the response rate is very low (Newburn, 2007, p.901). Surveys are known for being easy but Crowe and Semmens (2006, p.131) suggest that ‘this apparent simplicity can, however, be deceptive since your chosen means of administration is not guaranteed to produce reliable results, or a high response rate’.

There are three types of interviews; structured, semi-structured, and unstructured. Structures falls into the quantitate category whereas semi-structured and unstructured fall into the qualitative category. Structured interviews are planned out with set questions without deviation and are ‘good at finding number of time an individual has been a victim of crime over the past 12 months. But cannot tell the subjective experience of victimisation’ (Crowther, 2007, p.100). Unstructured research allows the investigator an understanding of depth and detail and how participants perceive matters. Each question is open ended with no structure and the interview is very much like a conversation, but with the interviewer steering the interview with a topic guide (Newburn, 2007, p.904). Semi-structured falls in-between structured and unstructured, as t is fairly formal with a basis of questions, but can deviate and explore in further detail; the interviewer does not feel bound and leaves room for the respondent to talk. Both semi-structured and unstructured ‘give more room to express own values and attitudes’ (Crowther, 2007, p.101). These methods are extremely time consuming and tend to have small samples, making it hard to generalise the findings.

Portfolio Part 2: A Reflection on the Experience of Conducting an Observation

Crowe and Semmens (2006, p.101) suggested that ‘knowledge of natural world is gathered through systematic objective and repeated observations of naturally occurring phenomena’. This form of data collecting is largely a product of qualitative data. We place ourselves in an environment and simply watch the behaviours of others; taking into consideration the context we detect how an individual in behaving and why they are behaving like that. This gives us incredibly rich and vivid information that simply cannot be oppressed into stats and figures. Kawulich (2005) states that ‘observations enable the researcher to describe existing situations using the five senses, providing a “Written photograph” of the situation under study’.

The observation was conducted in a bus station over a one hour period on the Saturday 2nd May 2015. The main topic of the observation was to examine what behaviours people were doing and scrutinise why. In terms of weather, the afternoon of the 2nd was cold and raining, as a result of this the majority of people were wearing larger winter coats with hoods; a lot of people were carrying umbrellas and had damp clothing and hair. As the bus station is in the centre of Leeds we can assume that the majority of people there did not live in the centre and were possibly having a Saturday shopping day or a ‘day out’; and were travelling home. The bus station was very busy and full with constant movement, and what was interesting was that it seemed quiet from what you would expect of a heavily crowded room. Upon observing the room it was noticed that the atmosphere of the bus station was calm and patient. Many of the individuals were seated quietly waiting for their bus or checking the times and showed no elevated emotions, they gave off a sense of cool and composed. There seemed to be a social expectation of behaviour when others entered and exist the bus; Individuals in the bus station waited for those to exit the bus, but always formed a line at the door in a ‘first come first serve’ mentality; it appeared that everyone followed the ‘rules’.

Upon arriving at the bus stop it was noticeable that the room was very large and long, so deciding a place to conduct the observation proved to be difficult. In order to try and get a full experience and be in equal distance to everything, the observation was carried out in the centre of the bus station, seated as if waiting for a bus; and as the observation was open and unstructured there was no behaviours that were expected. In the observation it was conducted as the investigator was a participant-as-observer; this included sitting waiting for the bus, but not participating with the behaviour of everyone surrounding, such as getting on an off the bus (Crowe and Semmens, 2006, p.101). Data was collected in the form of note taking, balancing observation and writing equally. To make the note-taking for efficient, abbreviations were used; and only words that were contained necessary information and words that were necessary for the sentence to make sense were used. Because the bus station was so busy it made it impossible to see and record every event and behaviour that happened. Because the room was in constant movement, it was difficult to record certain patterns of behaviour (Crowe and Semmens, 2006, p.110).

In terms of success, the method of note-taking proved to be well organised and easy to refer back to, but one thing that could have been improved was how much information could have potentially been recorded. If the observation was to be repeated a possible improvement could be move around the bus station after certain time lapses, to ensure the full bus station was covered and recorded in comparison to sitting in the centre doing a 360° surveillance. Another possibility would be to bring an assistant observer(s) that recorded an area designated to them; this method may cover a much larger range of qualitative data. Observation as a data collecting method can be very time consuming, having it been said that to have a valid observational research study, it should have a minimum of a year of research, but meanwhile it does generate rich qualitative data. This method arises certain ethical issues, recording and using information of their behaviour can be seen as an invasion of their privacy; as researches, in an open observation, do not ask for consent. It can be argued that if an individual knows they are being recorded, then they will change their behaviour to what they think is ‘right’ and ‘acceptable’, wanting to please the researcher. This concludes that the data gathered is unreliable and unusable as it is not genuine (Crowe and Semmens, 2006, p.114).

Portfolio Part 3: Analysing Crime Statistics

Describe Sexual Violence in relation to gender.

Newburn (2007, p.818) suggested that men have a much greater risk of being a victim of violent crimes than women do. A survey study in 2004 recorded that ‘women had a 6.3% chance of becoming a victim whereas men had a 14.6% chance’. Although these studies suggest men are more likely to become the victim of all violent crime, it has been found that women have a much greater risk to ‘intimate violence’ (Newburn, 2007, p.819). According to the Office for National Statistics (2013) a CSEW Survey, similarly found that ‘young women were much more likely to be victims of sexual assault in the last year’. The British Crime Survey found 6% of women reported non-sexual partner abuse, 3% reported sexual assault and 9% reported stalking; And in 1991 a survey discovered that one in four women had experienced rape-attempted rape in their lifetime (Newburn, 2007, pp.819-820). The Guardian (2013) states that between ‘2009/10 and 2011/12 there were an estimated 78,000 victims of rape per year in England and Wales – 69,000 females and 9,000 males’.

In the last 30 years there has been a significant increase in the awareness of rape. Studies that were conducted in the 70’s have shown that women who reported rape were seen more as complainants than an individual making a serious claim; Officials were highly unsympathetic. Women were given a list of things not to do, such as ‘don’t go out alone at night’, ‘Don’t use public transport at night’, ‘Don’t take shortcuts’, ‘Don’t cross commons or parks on your way or use alley’, and finally ‘don’t walk down badly lit streets’ (Newburn, 2007, p.822). This advice has been highly criticised with many stating it takes away the woman’s independence and implies that women are the ones at fault if they do not follow the ‘rules’. These rules, although are a precaution, make women feel that if they do any of these things, then they will surely be a victim on sexual assault. This can be seen in the SPSS graph below as in both columns ‘very worried’ and ‘fairly worried’, it is significantly higher than in the men’s column; presenting that there is a distress in women that they have been subjected to.

In correlation with this theory Russell Pond (1999, p.82) states that victim surveys have opened up a whole new line of enquiry, leading to the fear of crime debate. This concept has become a serious tool of social control, and has become more of a problem than crime itself. One major aspect of the fear of crime is the assumption that men are less likely to admit fear. Maguire et al (2007, pp.387-389) suggested that in terms of society men have a pressure telling then to be ‘masculine’ to be strong and brave and have little fear. This is carried onto the crime world, men are expected to be dominant and reject abuse. This idea can be seen in the SPSS Graph below; the vast majority of males are either not very worried or not worried at all. This can imply that men feel they will be judged if they admit to fear so they chose their answer based on what is expected of them.

The Level of Worry That Males and Females Have on Being Raped.

One issue with the fear of crime debate is defining fear, how do we measure fear? Fear usually correlated with risk and danger which can be seen with men going out and consuming alcohol; this is a risk, but men will admit to little fear (Pond, 1999, p.82). Men are more likely to act in risk-seeking behaviours than women. Walklate (1995) suggests that fear is a ‘gendered phenomenon’. She states that the fear of crime is ‘…rooted in a male defined rationality based risk management view of fear which cannot tap the kinds of experiences that underpin women’s responses’. Pond (1999, p.83) also refers to Farrel et al who suggested that crime was significantly misinterpreted in the way it is recorded. He said ‘Their suggestion is that quantitative methods based on surveys give a greater incidence of fear than qualitative methods based on interview’.

In an extremely controversial argument made in Patterns in Criminal Homicide (1958) by Wolfgang, he defined victim-precipitated offences as those ‘in which the victim is a direct positive precipitator in crime’. Amir suggested that one fifth of rapes were victim precipitates where: ‘the victim agreed to have sexual relations but retracted; or did not resists strong enough; or entered vulnerable situations sexually charged’ (Pond, 1995, p.78). At the time was a new emerging feminist movement, of which was highly critical of this approach.


In conclusion we can see the clear differences between qualitative and quantitative. Quantitative focuses on numeric data and with what is countable, whereas qualitative tends to focus on words and meaning. These two types of data are very different but the measures and methods we use to obtain them can occasionally go hand in hand, complimenting each other. The data obtaining method of observation was very educational as it displayed a personal experience of what went right and also how improvements could have been made, for example moving around and creating a large radius of observation would have improved and made diverse data. The final chapter it was found that women have a much greater chance of rape and sexual violence happening to them. But it also showcases that women are more worried about it; as more pressure and attention is placed upon them to avoid it, creating a slight sense of paranoia.


Crowe, I. and Semmens, N. (2006) Researching Criminology. Berkshire: McGraw-Hill.

Crowther, C. (2007) An Introduction to Criminology and Criminal Justice. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillian.

Kawulich, B. (2005) Participant Observation as a Data Collection Method. Forum: Qualitative Social Research [Online], Vol 6 (2) May, Chapter 2. Available from: [Accessed 6 May 2015].

Maguire, M. Morgan, R. Reiner, R. (2007) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Newburn, T. (2007) Criminology. Devon: Willan Publishing.

Office for National Statistics (2013) Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2011/12 [Online]. London. [Available from: [Accessed 7th May 2015].

Pond, R. (1999) Introduction to Criminology. Winchester: Waterside Press.

The Guardian (2013) Rape: crime and punishment [Online]. [Available from: [Accessed 7 May 2015].

Walklate, S. (1995) Gender and Crime. Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall.

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