Time to Reset the Clock on the Design of Impact Evaluations in Criminology: The Case for Multi-Methodology Designs

Published 23/07/2020
Type Article
Author(s) Stephen Morris, Andrew Smith, Chris Fox
Corresponding Authors

This paper highlights how qualitative research can enhance causal explanation in impact evaluations and provide additional causal leverage to findings from randomised experiments. We assess the extent to which randomised studies in criminology adopt mixed or multi-methodological approaches as seen in other fields such as health care, education and international development. We reviewed current practice in the design of experimental evaluations within criminology. Structured searched terms previously used to identify qualitative research components within randomised studies in health research, were used to search for evidence of mixed method design in 46 primary studies involving randomisation, published in four leading journals in criminology since 2013. Although such mixed-method randomised studies are increasingly seen in other fields such as health, education and international development, among the studies we identified in criminology and criminal justice our review reveals almost an entire absence of designs in which qualitative research is formally and explicitly integrated into study designs. We argue that randomised studies are significantly enhanced through incorporating explicit and planned mixed-method elements, and particularly qualitative research. We suggest reasons for this absence and what might be done to address it.