In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Qualitative Methods in Criminology

  • Introduction
  • Qualitative Data Collection and Analysis
  • Anthologies of Qualitative Research in Criminology
  • Continued Challenges for Qualitative Research in Criminology

Criminology Qualitative Methods in Criminology
Jamie Fader
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 July 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 July 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0225


Qualitative research formed the basis of much of the early American criminological canon. In the mid-20th century, however, criminology took a decidedly quantitative turn with advanced analytical technology and increased federal funding for survey research. As criminology has fully embraced positivism, qualitative research has been generally marginalized and practicing scholars have struggled to publish or secure funding. Quantitative standards of evaluation are often incorrectly applied to qualitative work. In the last two decades, we have seen a re-emergence in qualitative research in criminology, accompanied by a new appreciation for its unique value for generating and refining theory, as well as documenting the lived experience of offending and criminal justice system involvement. The ascendance of the life-course paradigm is both a cause and consequence of the renewed status of qualitative research. Although qualitative researchers are enjoying a renaissance within the field of criminology, they also face serious obstacles erected by demands for increased speed and volume of publications, heavy reliance on seemingly objective metrics of publication quality, and human subjects concerns.


American criminology can trace its roots to University of Chicago Sociology Department, which produced several decades of urban research starting in the early 20th century known as the Chicago School tradition. Robert Ezra Park, one of the department’s founders and a former journalist, urged his students to leave the comforts of the university behind and engage directly in the surrounding communities, documenting social disorganization, community institutions, social inequality, gangs, and other forms of crime and vice.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.