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Mark Elson 1205197 CR7952

Report - Planning a Qualitative Pilot Study

Research Area, Research Question and Previous Literature

When looking for a research topic that would provide a diverse platform with which to branch off
into a more developed and focused study, one of the first contemporary criminological issues that
came to mind was the issue of Policing. However the area of Policing is so vast and diverse that to do
a study simply on policing would be Herculean in scale, cost and would ultimately result in a
disorganised mess. So when looking for an issue that is affecting the modern day Police force in the
UK the recent trend towards budget cuts immediately came to mind. With the budgets of Police
forces being continuously slashed this of course would affect the services that they provide. With
that there is then the issue of what services the individual Police Forces of each County want to
provide and what services the general public wants the Police to provide. The wants of the general
public is something that could potentially be very useful for the Police Forces of the UK when
considering what services they should provide. However once again the issue of scale presents itself.
If we were to carry out a study of the entirety of the country in one go on what services they think
the Police should provide we would again be left with numerous amounts of conflicting data that
may or may not serve any purpose depending on the Police force that would read the conclusions.
One example of this could be if one of the services that was at the forefront of the general publics
wants was more focus on agricultural support, this would provide no useful information for a City
based Police Force like the City of London Police but would be ideal for more rurally situated Police
forces such as those in Devon and Cornwall. Therefore for the purposes of this study it was decided
to pick one county location (Hampshire) for the basis of the study with the potential for future
studies being used for each of the counties to give a county by county breakdown of what services
the general public want the Police to provide. Based upon these observations the research question
that was taken forward is. What services do the general public of Hampshire believe Hampshire
Constabulary should provide? With this research question there is a clear scale of size, that being of
Hampshire and a clear idea of who is going to be required for the sample, that being the general
public of Hampshire. Furthermore this research question seems perfect for a pilot study because it
provides a fantastic level of flexibility in regards to geographical location and targeted sample. By
having this flexibility in terms of geographical location and target sample there are vast
opportunities to take this initial study and replicate it as a full scale study of each county in England,
providing each Police Service a detailed look into the wants and expectations of the general public.

Mark Elson 1205197 CR7952

This information would then give each Police Force the opportunity to tailor their services to the
people that they protect.

With a research area and research question established the next step was to investigate whether
or not there was already established literature regarding public perception and policing in general
and then narrowing it down into more specific categories of provided services and county based
specific investigations. When searching through the established literature there did not seem to be
much research in regards to public perception regarding what services the Police should provide,
which means it seems to be a research area that is seemingly open to explore. However one piece of
research found from this investigation carried out by Russell Bradley (1998) titled Public Expectations
and Perceptions of Policing establishes that research using the focus group methodology is incredibly
effective (The importance of this being that this is the same methodology being used in this study
which will be discussed later on), but furthermore it has been nearly twenty years since a study of
this nature has been carried out. The age gap between the Bradley (1998) study and this planned
study is seemingly sufficient in order to not encroach on the work that has already been done and is
different enough in its overall aim to not be copying what has already been researched before. One
key difference between this planned study and the Bradley (1998) study will be the sample size will
be vastly smaller considering that Bradley (1998) used multiple pilot groups, multiple main groups
and further mini-ethnic groups with each group containing between 5-10 people taken from
multiple areas of the country. This pilot study uses a far smaller sample size due to the narrower
target sample group of the single county of Hampshire. One further difference between this pilot
study and the Bradley (1998) study is in regards to the demographics present within the sample
groups which will be discussed further in the next part of this report.

The Research Sample and Sampling Method

When considering the sample to use for this study, the first consideration that was made is how to
fit the sample to the research question. With this in mind the sample for this study needs to fit two
main factors, these factors being that any participant in this study must be from the Hampshire
region and a member of the general public. In this instance, given that the research area is in regards
to Police services it is only prudent to exclude members of the Hampshire Police service as potential
candidates for sampling given that their personal views on what the Police should provide in regards
to services maybe influenced or conflicted and as such would not provide a generalised view of the
general public. With these initial attributes in place, the further breakdown of the sample into the
specific focus groups is based upon a specific characteristic. For the purpose of this study, Bradleys
(1998) study has been used as a source of inspiration. In the Bradley (1998) study he composed his

Mark Elson 1205197 CR7952

sample using several characteristics including socio-economic group, age, gender, geographic region,
urban/rural environment and ethnic group. By using this amount of characteristics Bradleys (1998)
study has a strong external validity however as a by-product of this the study required a large
number of participants (100) which consumes a lot of resources both in terms of time and money.
Therefore for the purpose of this pilot study only two main characteristics will be focused on, those
of gender and age. By doing this it allows for a degree of external validity, whilst keeping the cost of
the study in terms of finances and man hours down. Furthermore because this is a pilot study, there
is still the opportunity to branch out further and explore similar avenues to that of Bradley (1998).
However for the time being the study will simply stick with that of age and gender of the general
public in Hampshire. With the characteristics of the sample in place the next stage was how to
acquire the initial population data in order to establish the sample. As previously stated this study is
utilising three main focus groups split based on age and gender, therefore an understanding of the
population percentage breakdown by age is required. This data was obtained from a 2011 Census
fact sheet taken from the Hampshire County Council website and was published by their Research
and Intelligence group in 2013. Using this data the three groups were established based on age
brackets of 20-39, 40-59 and 60 and above. One issue that is presented when using the 2011 Census
data is that it is six years old as of the creation of this study and therefore participants selected may
not fit the groups that they would have at the time of the census. However this is an issue that we
unfortunately only have one work around and that would be to wait until the next census in 2021
something we simply cannot do. Therefore with these group parameters in place the next step was
to select a sampling method by which to select the participants for the study. Now that this is a
qualitative study, the use of the probability sampling methods used predominantly by quantitative
research is unadvisable. This is because we are not looking for a random sample of the general
population but instead we have a singular geographical location and other criteria with which to
gather our sample. However by already establishing this set of criteria for what we are looking for in
regards to a sample, then the use of a stratified sampling method becomes far more viable in
regards to usability rather than a quota sample. By not using a quota sample the issue of interviewer
bias is removed from the study which if left unchecked can make then study unrepresentative of the
general population that is being studied given that the interviewer would select the participants.
However with the stratified sample, the selection of the participants is random and whilst this may
seem to present an issue regarding establishing the correct proportions for each focus group. The
simple solution already presented itself in the form of the groups themselves. By attributing
parameters to the population data prior to selection it was easy to create three focus groups that
each contained ten participants, five female, five male and of their corresponding age bracket. The

Mark Elson 1205197 CR7952

sampling system also created a further three groups of participants to act as a backup pool in case
any of our participants backed out of the study which was well within their right and fully explained
to them. Now with the sample in place the study could begin and the methodology behind this study
will now be discussed.

The Methodology
As previously stated throughout this report, this pilot study utilised the focus group methodology
in order to gather data regarding the general public of Hampshires perceptions regarding what
services the Hampshire Constabulary should provide. A question that can be asked is why use the
focus group method and not a traditional single participant interview? The choice was made to use a
focus group for one simple reason. The fact that it uses a group. Whilst this may seem a very simple
reason it is also the most prominent and logical reason as to why this method was used. The main
goal of this study is to establish the general perception of the people of Hampshire, this is only
achievable through the focus group method, where general consensus is most often reached. If we
were to use single participant interviews we would not get the general consensus that could be
applied to the rest of the general public of Hampshire, but instead we would only end up with
multiple opinions that may or may not have any consensus, theme or collaboration at all. In regards
to the actual running of the focus groups, each group contains the same content in regard to areas
of discussion, this does not take into account the potential for tangent conversations and as such
moderator involvement is required. However by utilising this method it allows for an easily
replicable setting which can allow for even more data to be collected. In terms of content it is
important to not leave the focus group solely lead by discussion as this presents the issue of overt
outgoing participants doing all of the talking and the more introverted, quieter participants being
left out. Therefore the use of alternative activities is present in this plan, with one of the main
alternative activities being the use of visual aids and group ranking. The visual aids used in this study
a representative of particular services the Police provide and then as a group the services are ranked
according to levels of importance. By using this visual aid and ranking exercise within the focus
group it allows for an alternative source of quantitative data for analysis that can be used to show
generational differences in regards to what Police services are most important on top of the
qualitative data that will be gathered from each group.

Mark Elson 1205197 CR7952


In regards to the ethics surrounding this study apart from the standard procedures of informed
consent, maintaining confidentiality by using false names throughout and providing the participants
with the right to withdraw, there are not many ethical issues that can be raised by this study. There
is no issue of deceit given that the research aims are clearly overt and is presented fully throughout
the focus group. The subject area is not of an overtly distressing nature and would only be so for
someone who has perceived to have been failed by the Police. However one of the focus groups may
be considered to be of a vulnerable nature that being the focus group of the 60 and above age
bracket. They could be considered vulnerable due to their age and any underlying medical issues
that they may have which may lead to informed consent not being able to be attained. However
there is a very simple work around to this problem that comes from the back up pool of participants
that was created, simply replace a participant who is more than likely unable to participant and
replace them with one from the backup pool.

Closing Summary

To conclude this report it is only fitting to provide a summary of all of the details that have been
presented regarding this pilot study. To begin the initial area of interest for this research concerned
Policing and the services they provide across the country, this was then subsequently reduced down
to a more geographically narrower basis, that basis being the county of Hampshire. Further on from
that the research topic was then established as an investigation into the perceptions of the
Hampshire general public in regards to what services Hampshire constabulary should provide. A
brief mention of a previous study carried out by Bradley (1998) which acted as an inspiration for this
current research was then made, paying attention to areas regarding the sampling and the
consequences of the research in regards to the practicality and feasibility of this proposed study.
This report then moved onto the sample and sampling method which was presented as establishing
the chosen sample of the study through the use of three stratified samples on census data regarding
three specific age brackets in order to establish the three focus groups that would then be used for
the study. The final two sections of this report broke down the methodology and the ethics of the
study the methodology established the decision to use the focus group method instead of singular
interviews and established the use of visual aids and ranking exercises that would be incorporated
into the study in order to gather more data. Finally the ethics section discussed the seemingly few
ethical issues that could arise from this study whilst paying attention to the requirements of
confidentiality, informed consent and right to withdraw whilst also highlighting the potential issue of

Mark Elson 1205197 CR7952

the 60 and above age bracket becoming a potential vulnerable group whilst also establishing a work
around the issue.

Word count: 2,513


Research and Intelligence (2013) Headline Facts and Figures Hampshire (Including Portsmouth and
Southampton) [online] Available at
pdf [Accessed 16 February 2017]
Bradley, R. (1998) Public Expectations and Perceptions of Policing. [online]. London: Policing and
Reducing Crime Unit. Available at
[Accessed 16 February 2017]