Research Question and Hypothesis Following their release from prison,ex-convicts search for jobs as they attempt to reintegrate back into society. However,due to the stigma attached to criminals, they experience difficulty findingemployment. This is a huge issue as participation in the work force is acrucial step to reintegration and contribution to their community. The questionis whether their unemployability is due to their criminal record or not. Andwhat about people who have a mark on their records for a petty crime likeshoplifting, disorderly conduct, and vandalism? Should this minor misconduct interferewith their ability to be hired? Furthermore, there is the question of whetheror not intentionally biased hiring is ethically moral or if it is sociallyaccepted as an understandable course of action. In addition, concepts such asstigmatization and discrimination are areas of study that I am particularlyinterested in which is what drew me to this topic. In my research, I plan to explorethe effects of criminal records on a person’s employability.
In addition, Iwill be focusing on ideas of stigmatization and stereotypes connected to criminalsas I believe it plays a role in job employment discrimination. The researchquestion I am trying to answer is: “Are employers biased against job applicantswith criminal records?” My hypothesis is that employers are biased against applicantswho hold criminal records because of the negative connotations associated withcriminals. Research Methodology – Mixed-MethodsResearch I will be conducting this research using bothquantitative and qualitative methods, or mixed-methods research, through theanalysis of preexisting studies and conducting surveys and interviews withemployers. My decision to utilize qualitative methods stems from my desire to havea deeper understanding of the underlying reasons why an employer mightdiscriminate against a potential employee. According to Denzin (2009, p. 140),the evidence-based community believes that qualitative research is not realresearch, except if it includes a randomized control trial (RCT).
Furthermore, Atkinsonand Delamont (2006) argue that “interpretive research should not be made toconform to inappropriate definitions of scientific research” as they servedifferent purposes. There is much controversy over the validity of qualitativemethods, so much so that if it does not meet the same requirements as quantitativeresearch, it may not receive any funding. A common argument against the use ofinterpretive research is the absence of clear guidelines and lack of hardevidence; the “evidence” is often considered “not valid, not replicable, notacceptable” (Morse 2006, p. 416). However, rather than focusing on evidencelike scientific researchers do, qualitative researchers prefer to criticallyanalyze the “experience, emotions, events, processes, performances, narratives,poetics, and politics of possibility” (Denzin 2009, p. 141) surrounding the issue.
These concepts are deemed to be biased and opinion based and therefore,unreliable and a useless contribution. Nonetheless, I believe there is merit inquantitative research as quantitative research often does not address issueslike motivation, behaviors, societal norms, and contextual details. By including some quantitative research, I plan to supplementmy interpretive research with some hard evidence – statistical data. In accordance to Morse (2006), I believe that areasof study require both qualitative and quantitative research to come to a fullunderstanding of the topic. Morse (2006, p. 417) uses the example of medicalresearch and practices to illustrate her point that both research methods arenecessary: understanding the most efficient way to care for a patient isequally as important as finding out if a drug works or not.
The redeemingfeatures of quantitative methods is that the data can be easily controlled, andthe hypothesis can be easily tested. Furthermore, scientific research can be replicated,consistent, and viewed as more legitimate. Unlike theories and interpretive analysis,numbers cannot be interpreted in different ways, nor can it be biased; a twowill always be a two. That is not to say that there are no disadvantages to apurely numerical methodology. While scientific researchers “transformperceptions and emotions into direct data by asking the participant to scorethe event numerically they disregard differences in the weighting ofperceived scoring systems” (Morse 2006, p. 419). To further prove her point,Morse explains that while a doctor may ask a patient to rate their pain on ascale of 1 to 10, numerical values do not accurately capture the extent of thepain the way descriptions of symptoms and facial expressions do. Mixed-methods research is acombination of the two traditional research methods that attempts to take thebest of both worlds.
However, Sechrest and Sidani (1995, p. 78) note that thetwo forms of research are quite similar as they both “describe their data,construct explanatory arguments from their data, and speculate about why theoutcomes they observed happened as they did.” In addition, Dzurec and Abraham(1993, p. 75) agree that “the objectives, scope, and nature of inquiry areconsistent across methods and across paradigms.” The mixed-methods method allowsthe researcher to customize and incorporate research designs that best suit theirstudy for the purpose of finding the most efficient way to answer theirresearch questions. Rather than being constrained to just one method, researchersshould feel free to use anything that would help and improve their research(Johnson and Onwuegbuzie 2004, p. 15).
I believe my research would be bestconducted using the mixed-methods research as I wish to have free reign overthe design of my study. Statistical Data and Independent andDependent VariablesThe data I plan to gather would come from past studieson the employability of criminals which I will then compile into charts. Aspecific place of employment is not a big concern for this study, so it mattersnot if the employer is from a big corporation, fast food chain, or retailstore. The statistical data is not quite as important as the survey andinterview part of the research as it is only for the sake of having hardevidence to validate and back up my claims. To create a solid research topic it is necessary to be able to identify thedependent and independent variables.
According to Wikstrom (2008), ” If adesign is too weak to justify a causal relationship between the independent anddependent variable, one cannot make any theoretical interpretations orgeneralizations” (p. 146). Furthermore, Gerring (2011) states that “causalrelationships occur against a background of other factors” (p. 200), and forthe most part, background conditions are constant and experience no change.
Inmy research, the independent variable is the criminal record, or the applicantwith the record, and the dependent variable is the bias of the employer. I willbe conducting research that will try to prove that an applicant’s record causesthe employer to be biased. In order to prove my case, I will be gathering data mainlythrough the use of surveys and interviews with employers. Data Collection Through SurveysOne way I will gather data is through a simple survey. Thepoint of the survey is to gather a number of participants so that my researchhas sample size large enough for the data to prove anything (King and Wincup2008, p. 31). A survey is a form of sample study and it is used to “justifythe questions in terms of the particular sample from the population to answerthe question” (Maxwell 2012, p.
78). The questionnaires will be in the formatof “yes,” “no,” and “maybe” questions and to be submitted anonymously online toprotect the identities of the employers. The nature of the questions is to testwhich factor convinces the employer to choose not to hire a job applicant. Therefore,I will be giving descriptions of applicants, for instance their appearance,gender, ethnicity, age, education, and working experience, and asking if employerswould employ them. An example description is as followed: “John is a 32-year-oldblack male with dreadlocks who is dressed in a smart casual outfit. He has abachelor’s degree and ten years of work experience in the field. Would you hirehim?” In addition, as a follow-up question after each description, I will beasking them whether or not the applicant would still be hired if they had acriminal record.
Once again the options are “yes,” “no,” and “maybe.” With theresults from the survey I hope to have a better grasp of potential factors thatinfluence a job applicant’s employability. Data Collection Through Interviews My other way of gathering data isthrough interviews, a favored method of criminologists. Although the interviews,much like the surveys, “employ a “sampling” logic which select intervieweesto generalize to some population of interest” (Maxwell 2012, p.
78), the samplesize is on a smaller scale as it is far more time consuming and complicated toconduct. Just like the survey, the employers interviewed will be keptanonymous. This is to ensure their contribution does not become detrimental totheir reputation or status. It would not be good if their company or businessgot a bad name due to the employer’s admittance to biased hiring practices orif the employer was subsequently fired from their workplace. My interviewingprocess will be more highly structured to the degree where there is a checklistof predicted responses I can mark off. It will essentially be the same format aself-completion questionnaire might have, except I will have the opportunity tointeract with the interviewee and clarify any unclear or vague questions (King andWincup 2008, p.
31). In addition, questioning the employees face-to-face allowsme to read their expressions and determine the seriousness of their responses,making it difficult for them to give false answers. Next, I will list some potentialquestions to ask the employees during the interview and explain why it would helpme gather information needed to validate my research hypothesis. Of course, thefirst question is: “Would you hire someone with a criminal record?” This isquite simple and straight to the point and informs them of the direction theinterview is going. The next question would be: “Does the severity of the crimemake a difference, or are all crimes seen as one and the same?” With thisquestion I can determine whether or not it matters to employers if theapplicant is a robber, rapist, murderer, or drug trafficker. If the employer repliesthat all crime is the same to them, then it suggests that a criminal record isall it takes to make the applicants unemployable. To follow up on the previousquestion, I would ask: “Is the nature of an applicant’s crime investigated afterthe discovery that they hold a criminal record, or are they immediately removedfrom the list of potential employees?” If the answer is the latter, then itreveals hints of bias. The applicant could have been marked for a petty crime thatoccurred many years ago, but they are not given a chance because the employer believescriminals are unfit for the job.
The next question is: “Do you believe in thesaying ‘once a criminal, always a criminal’?” Their response to this will allowme to gain some insight on whether or not they believe those with a record areredeemable and thus, should be given a chance to land a job. Finally, for thelast two questions, the interviewees will not be given choices to answer with; thesewill be purely their own opinions. The first is: “What are some traits orstereotypes you associate with criminals?” The responses could potentially providebeneficial information that would allow me to make a connection between the stigmatizationof offenders and employment discrimination if the general consensus on thesubject is negative. The second and last question is: “What are some reasons whyyou think criminals should not be employed?” This question presumes that theemployer does not hire applicants with criminal records and is tied to theprevious question.
Likewise, the answers would further support my hypothesisthat the employment bias exists due to the negative connotations affiliatedwith a criminal. The questions are by no means perfect, but unlike withsurveys, I can easily modify them or make additional follow-up questions duringthe interview if necessary. Limitations of Research There is no way a research can be perfectas it is hard to cover every little detail and possibility. That is also why itis important to address any limitations the study might have. The biggest flaw inmy hypothesis is the assumption that the employers are biased againstapplicants with criminal records. There are plenty of other factors that maylead someone to be denied employment.
The bias against the employment of women,particularly in STEM fields, already exists so perhaps gender is the reason whysome female offenders are denied jobs. Additionally, the elderly is also lesslikely to be employed due to their age and belief that they are not physicallyfit for the job. Or maybe the employers are racist against certain ethnicminority groups and the record has nothing to do with it. There’s also thechance that the employers are not being discriminatory in any way and it is justa case of being unemployed for far too long, lacking the right skill set, ornot having the right qualifications. The statistical data gathered can also beseen as superficial. It would be easy to pick and choose data from preexistingstudies that would support my research hypothesis.
Furthermore, the compiled data does not do much to explain the results –numbers are just numbers. All statistical data does is scratch the top layer ofa problem but does not contribute much to the discussion of understanding the underlyingreasons. Another problematic area of myresearch is the research question itself. It is way too broad to serve as a workingresearch question which is unacceptable as it is supposed to be the backbone ofa good research paper.
If they are “too general or too diffuse createsdifficulties both in conducting the study – in knowing what sites orparticipants to choose, what data to collect, and how to analyze these data –and in clearly connecting your results to your goals and conceptual framework”(Maxwell 2013, p. 75). Another issue that arises from poorly formulated researchquestions is that it often ends up having little to do with the actual purpose ofthe paper. First of all, the research question in this study does not even statewhich country in particular it is trying to target. Employment regulations and standardsvary from country to country as do the stigma of offenders. Likewise, it does notidentify any specific field of work the job discrimination is taking place.
It makesno sense to try to generalize and lump all variety of jobs together because of differencesin employment qualifications. For instance, it is no surprise that individuals withcriminal records are ineligible to join the police force or army because they arebarred from handling firearms and other weapons. However, the biggest flaw in theresearch question is that it can easily be answered with a “yes” or “no.” Ratherthan asking if something happens, it is better to ask why and how something happens.With the original research question, the answer does not contribute any new ideaor theory which will only result in a bland and sloppy research.