n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - The value of a qualitative methodology in criminological research

Volume 16, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Information obtained via qualitative research often provides valuable representations of the social worlds of both the criminal and the victim of crime. In qualitative research emphasis is placed on individuals' perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, feelings and behaviour as well as the meanings and interpretations that they attach to certain situations. Researchers, who conduct studies within the qualitative tradition, attempt to build a complex, holistic picture, analyse words and report the detailed views of informants. These researchers are instruments of data collection that gather words and analyse them inductively, while focusing on the views, perceptions and experiences of informants. Expressive language is used to explore how respondents see their world, how they define the situation and what it means to them. The emphasis is therefore placed on the qualities of human behaviour and the main aim is to understand phenomena in a particular context. Two criminology studies dealing with marital rape and hijacking in South Africa respectively are the focus of the article. These studies are discussed briefly and the rationale for choosing a qualitative methodology in both cases is discussed. The procedures utilised to substantiate the accuracy of respondents' accounts and ensure consistency, neutrality, credibility as well as confirmability are expounded. In addition, examples are given of important context-specific insights that were gained in the process of understanding the subjective experiential world of both the criminal and the victim in the crime situation. The invaluable contribution of qualitative research in the field of Criminology is also illustrated by incorporating direct quotes to highlight the perspectives of participants. It is argued that by letting the respondents speak, their story is carried through dialogue. In conclusion it is emphasised that the rich, thick and honest descriptions given by respondents and the colourful detail with which they tried to explain and describe the meanings, definitions and symbols they attach to their lives, contributed to the field of Criminology by adding valuable scientific knowledge to this field of study.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error