Assignment 2: Methodology

In your final paper for this course, you will need to write a Methods section that is about 3–4 pages long where you will assess and evaluate the methods and analysis of your proposed research.

In preparation for this particular section, answer the following questions thoroughly and provide justification/support. The more complete and detailed your answers for these questions, the better prepared you are to successfully write your final paper:

What is the problem being addressed by your research study?

State the refined research question and hypothesis (null and alternative).

What are your independent and dependent variables? What are their operational definitions?

Who will be included in your sample (i.e., inclusion and exclusion characteristics)?

How many participants will you have in your sample?

How will you recruit your sample?

Identify the type of measurement instrument to be used to collect the raw numeric data to be statistically analyzed and the type of measurement data the instrument produces.

What issues will you cover in the informed consent?

If there is potential risk or harm, how will you ensure the safety of all participants?

Name any possible threats to validity and steps that can be taken to minimize these threats.

What type of parametric or nonparametric inferential statistical process (correlation, difference, or effect) will you use in your proposed research? Why is this statistical test the best fit?

State an acceptable behavioral research alpha level you would use to fail to accept or fail to reject the stated null hypothesis and explain your choice.

This paper may be written in question-and-answer format rather than a flowing paper. Write your response in a 3- to 4-page Microsoft Word document.

All written assignments and responses should follow APA rules for attributing sources.

Maximum Points

Stated the problem being addressed.

Stated the refined research question and hypothesis (null and alternative).

Stated the independent and dependent variables and provided the operational definitions.

Discussed sample characteristics and size.

Discussed a sample recruitment strategy.

Identified the type of measurement instrument to be used and the type of measurement data the instrument produces.

Discussed the informed consent and potential risk and protection factors.

Named the possible threats to validity and steps that can be taken to minimize these threats.

Discussed the type of parametric or nonparametric inferential statistical process that will be used and why it is a best fit.

Stated an acceptable behavioral research alpha level for analyzing the data.

Wrote in a clear, concise, and organized manner; demonstrated ethical scholarship in accurate representation and attribution of sources; displayed accurate spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Sample paper


The research study addresses the problem of whether the United States criminal justice system should employ the death sentence to punish offenders. Proponents argue that the death sentence may provide closure to co-victims, help to decongest the prisons, and eliminate repeat murders in case a prisoner escapes from prison. On the other hand, opponents argue that the death sentence is an inhuman form of punishment, it can lead to emotional strain on victim’s family, the accused person may be willing, and most importantly that it is costly compared to other forms of sentences. This article aims at investigating the relative costs of the death sentence in the U.S. criminal justice system and comparing the same to costs in other forms of payment.

The refined question of the study relates to the high costs of the death sentence in the U.S. This paper thus seeks to answer the following question: should the death penalty be used in the United States criminal justice system considering its apparent costs? The null hypothesis (H0) states that the death sentence is not costly compared to a life sentence. The alternative hypothesis states the death sentence is more costly compared to a life sentence. The first hypothesis assumes that there is no significant difference in costs between the death sentence and life sentence. The second hypothesis (alternative) assumes that there is a significant difference in costs between the death penalty and the life sentence.

The dependent variable for analysis is the time taken to resolution of a capital offense case. For the purposes of this research, time-to-resolution is defined as the total number of calendar days it takes to conclude a case from the filing date to the last date when the sentence is issued. Time-to-resolution is used because it is easier to assess comparing to examining actual financial data, which in most cases is unavailable. The longer time it takes to resolve a capital case, the higher the costs involved. The dependent variables in the study are type of capital case (special circumstance or no special circumstance filing), characteristics of the defendant such as race, personal history such as previous crimes, & alcohol abuse, the offense characteristics, and specific statutory aggravators.

This research aims at comparing costs incurred in prosecuting a capital offense leading to a death sentence to the costs incurred in prosecuting other sentences which does not lead to a death sentence. The sample of this study involves capital offense cases recorded in the U.S. criminal justice system between 2000 and 2010. The total costs involved in processing each of the identified cases is estimated by looking at the time taken to resolution and estimating the average costs of such a case per day. The cost breakdown yields a number of key process areas in prosecution of capital cases. These include litigation costs, cost of jurors, adjudication process costs, and incarceration costs. Capital cases that do not proceed to trial will not be included in the sample. The sample will include all capital cases in which a death sentence was sought from the initial stages.

One thousand cases will be identified involving capital offenses prosecuted between 2000 and 2010. Observations will be made from court records following approval by the relevant authorities. Price data concerning the trail cases will be derived from publicly available sources. The dependent variable requires that all cases must have complete details such as the date of prosecution to sentencing date. A public records request from respective District Attorney’s office of various states will provide the required data regarding capital offense cases. District Attorney Offices are the largest prosecutorial bodies in the country and thus may provide all the relevant data required for this research. The sample will be recruited from select states having high cases of death penalty convictions. For instance, Los Angeles County records the highest number of death convictions in the United States (Petersen & Lynch, 2012). This will provide robust data for the research.

Observation forms will be used in collecting the raw numeric data for statistical analysis. The researcher collecting data through reading of documents will fill observation forms, providing critical information of the observations made. The type of measurement data that this instrument produces is interval data. This type of data is the simplest form. It involves arbitrarily assigning numerical values.

Informed consent will pertain to the legal permission to conduct an investigation with the District Attorney’s office in various states. As such, the researcher must adhere to all the prescribed rules and regulations by various law enforcement departments. Informed consent will also involve disclosing to the relevant authorities the nature of the study as well as the consequences of not adhering to the guidelines given by the department. The potential risk or harm associated with this research involves the issue of confidentiality or privacy of information obtained. To eliminate this, the research will not identify the names of individuals involved in capital offense cases nor those on death row. Pseudonyms will be used to identify inmates and various cases.

One of the possible threats to validity is the restricted geographical coverage of the study. Restricting the study to a smaller geographical region may lower the external validity of the results. This threat can be minimized by expanding the research to more areas or states. Another threat to the validity of the results is a small sample size. When the sample size is small, the results may not be generalizable. In order to minimize this threat, the researcher can increase the sample size.

The statistical process to be used in the research is regression analysis. Regression models can help determine the nature of the relationships between the dependent and the independent variables (Gordon, 2015). A regression model is the best fit in this case because it helps indicate whether the independent variables have a strong relationship with the dependent variable. The regression model enables the researcher to assess the relative strengths of various independent variables on the dependent variable. The significance level for the null hypothesis is 0.05. This gives a higher chance of making errors since the type of research is not extremely sensitive to accuracy of results.


Gordon, R. A. (2015). Regression analysis for the social sciences. United Kingdom, UK: Routledge.

Petersen, N., & Lynch, M. (2012). Prosecutorial discretion, hidden costs, and the death penalty:   the case of Los Angeles County. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 102(4):   1233-1244.


Computing Descriptive Statistics

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