Search for research
The following resources will help you search for research in the fields of policing:
National Police Library Online
Membership to the National Police Library Online is free for all serving UK police and police staff.
You can also search for access to journals and data bases here:-
National Rural Crime Network
NRCN aims to influence people who make decisions about policy and practice, so that rural communities are better understood and supported.
Police Professional is the biggest selling UK policing publication. EMPAC works with Police Professional as a national media partner to help communicate to as wide an audience of policing practitioners as possible.
How to do research
EMPAC is keen to encourage ‘research mindedness’ amongst policing practitioners and to instill confidence for you to get involved.
EMPAC wants to help those out there who are wanting an introductory ‘way in’ as a first step we wanted to offer you some easy to use guidance. Our style is conversational and informal because we want to help you see you can get to grips with research, even if you find it a bit confusing just at the moment.
EMPAC is committed to the co-production of knowledge, by practitioners and academic researchers working together in collaboration. Yet it’s difficult for practitioners to maybe get a quick guide to translate some of the research world language – it may seem complex and daunting. So, whilst this little section does not claim to do anything other than offer some first steps, it may prove useful for those of you out there who are interested but wondering where to start!
Take a look at our informal materials – we’ve created each little section small and digestible on a purpose – we understand you’re busy people who may need to access bite-size pieces, as and when time allows. When you’re ready, there are opportunities within EMPAC to move into an accredited programme at whichever level is appropriate for you. Talk to us if you have any questions and enjoy the learning!
What is research?
So, what do we mean by ‘research’?
Well, on a very fundamental level it’s about searching out something that we don’t yet know. It’s about asking questions to find answers, understanding and meaning. From a policing perspective it’s very similar to the National Decision Making Model as it’s about ‘what we know already’ then ‘what we don’t know’ and seeking to ‘find out’ to better inform our decisions. (And, of course, monitoring this in a cyclical fashion and continually learning.)
So let’s stick with that NDM as a reference point, so you can feel comfortable based on something you already know. Having an idea of what you already know is a core point, plus an awareness of what you might be missing, or need to know more about. So it’s about collating and making sense of what you’ve already got ‘in the bag’ (this might be things personally known to you or things others have found out that you’re able to somehow assess as to its trustworthiness) – this in ‘research’ terms is sometimes called a ‘Literature Review’. It’s just really a collation of ‘what do we already know’ to inform where we go next.
Just as in assessing intelligence within the NDM you need a critical mind – you don’t just take things on face value; you seek corroboration and ‘test’ sources. This sometimes means comparing how say Source A adds a bit to the picture but clashes with parts of Source B. That’s just like assessing literature – so you should never just passively read and accept but always engage and be questioning. It’s the same point around presuming things – don’t!
So, you might say this is a bit like investigating – yes it is!
So, let’s also add in that angle of being like an investigation – think primary and secondary sources, like hearsay. Primary sources are like getting something from the ‘horse’s mouth’ (although this is not strictly speaking a technical researcher’s phrase!), whilst secondary data is where you’re looking at something second hand. Doesn’t make any one thing right or wrong – but you are aware of the pros and cons and potential limitations.
Research has its own model, just like the NDM. On a basic overview, it usually fits the convention of:- identify the query, then rationalise and plan your approach, find the data, analyse it, use it and then into that cycle of continual learning.
You will know with any data enquiry that you need to think abut your question – if you search NICHE for any white male you will spend a long time waiting for a return and then even longer reading a very long list. You might try a speculative but informed guess (in research terms this is called deductive hypothesis testing). You make a stab at a possible insight or explanation and test it out.
You will also know the difference between probability, coincidence (circumstantial) and beyond all reasonable doubt. So, in research terms, if you find that there is a connection between A and B, you know you have to do more to prove something. In research terms, this is about understanding correlation (spotting a connection) doesn’t equate to causation (you have to prove beyond simple coincidences).
And, of course, Sherlock, you know what evidence is. Well it’s just like that in research – we don’t get a conviction on the basis of Mr A thinks Mr B did it – we seek the evidence. Evidence can come in all shapes and sizes, and research, just as disclosure reveals in an investigation, can be a bit messy, with some dead ends, cul de sacs and occasional lucky breaks. But, just like an investigation, research, messy or not, aims to be systematic so there is a clear accountability audit trail of what was done, why that rationale and an honesty that allows a fellow investigator to pick up and review or continue.
In research that accountability is termed ‘ethics’ and means to do no harm in the process.
Time for a break and a bit of reflecting before you move onto the next article maybe. Think on this though – do you see how you do already know these principles already, just under different names? Research – it’s like police work under an alias!
There are many different ways to go about researching. Remember research is done for a purpose – to find something out or seek better understanding. It depends on what you’re trying to do when it comes to find the best way to do it. Think of it like a toolbox – you need the right tool for the job. It’s about seeking the best evidence you can for your research question / application. Try not to think about any one single approach being the only way and try not to think in terms of ‘right and wrong’ ways, just the best for the research question at hand.
The normal overview of research methods firstly divides things into quantitative and qualitative – although many examples of research use a combination of the two, called mixed methods.
Basically, quantitative methods focus on quantities and measures, such as numbers and statistics. Quantitative research can tend to focus on the control and precision of elements involved, as within experiments, and can be good at being replicable (repeated elsewhere).
The notion of being a hard, provable ‘fact’ through data is sometimes referred to as ’empirical’ or ‘positivism’ or ‘realism’.
Common research tools within the quantitative approach include statistical analysis.
Qualitative methods can tend to focus more on human perspectives and ‘insider’ understanding and context, but there is sometimes a challenge in achieving ‘replicability’ on the basis of each specific situation or context being unique. This means it may be hard to justify any ‘generalisable’ claims. Qualitative approaches can be good when you are asking ‘why’ things happen.
The notion that everything is really a matter of perception and individual meaning is sometimes called social constructionism or relativism.
Common research tools for the qualitative approach include focus groups and interviews.
The pros and cons of each approach show why mixed methods can produce a better outcome, where appropriate.
For a little more light reading (there is a lot of information out there!) you could consider A Gentle Guide to Research Methods by Gordon Rugg and Marian Petre, published by OUP.
Presentation on Practitioner Researcher
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