One of the more challenging courses in my masters program was Criminal Justice Research. Reading and evaluating research methods for validity and applicability to a specific topic came easily; however the finer details of terminology and research progression was often confusing. Distinguishing between quantitative and qualitative research, sample components, or identifying the dependent and independent variables proved difficult. Our textbook for the course, The Practice of Research in Criminology and Criminal Justice (Bachman & Schutt, 2014) utilized graphs and images to show the relationship as well as differences between the terms. These visual aids significantly improved comprehension and application of the material.
A second resource that provides an effective visual aid is that of an interactive map. USA Today provides an interactive map of mass killings in the United States since 2006 (Thomassie, et al., 2016). Red dots are placed on the map to show where deaths have occurred allowing the viewer to hover their mouse over a dot to obtain a brief synopsis of what has occurred. Events can also be sorted according to year, number of victims, type (familial, workplace, church), or method. The advantages to a map is that it can provide a broad view and then be narrowed more specifically to your own state, or other variable.
Overall, visual aids provide another medium to supplement written or verbal information, which
ultimately contributes positively to the audience’s understanding or provides a visual image that communicates more powerfully than words. In my organization, we conduct staffings with a professionals from law enforcement, children’s protective services, probation, prosecutors, mental health and medical professionals to ensure information is shared and everyone has a complete picture of what has occurred. An effective powerful tool during this meeting can be to just have the picture of the child on a screen to serve as a reminder that this is more than a name on a piece of paper, there is a face, a smile behind our decisions.
Bachman, R., & Schutt, R. K. (2014).The practice of research in criminology and criminal justice (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Thomassie, J., et al., (2016). Behind the bloodshed. USA Today. Retrieved from
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