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Comparative Criminal Justice Research Methods


Entry requirements

Students who want to take this course need to be admitted to the master’s programme in Criminology and Criminal Justice.


This course provides an overview of the most important legal and criminological research methods than can be used to study the criminal justice system from a comparative perspective and from different disciplines. The course will first focus on acquiring basic research skills by offering a series of workshops students can choose from, including analyzing jurisprudence, reading legislation, interpreting statistics, conducting interviews and observing in the field. Then a series of lectures and seminars will be given to discuss opportunities and pitfalls of legal and criminological comparative research. During the seminar students can choose from two topics to work on for their assignments: pretrial detention or prison conditions.

The course also discusses the epistemological context of the importance of studying the object through various methods and the role of ethics in scientific research. The course seeks to provide students with an understanding of the purpose and appropriate use of the major legal and criminological research methods, and to equip researchers with the skills to select the most appropriate research methods for their topic and to know how to report on them. Furthermore, an important objective of this course is to let students from different backgrounds exchange knowledge and expertise.

Learning objectives

Upon completing this course, students are able to

  • identify and use common criminological and legal research methods that are suitable to examine a Criminal Justice problem from a comparative and multidisciplinary perspective

  • reflect on the conceptual differences of understanding data and legal interaction

  • describe and reflect on the role of ethics in criminological scientific research

  • find and critically analyze cross-national comparative data on a topic

  • apply appropriate analyzing techniques of analysis to compare data form different jurisdictions

  • interpret data to draw adequate conclusions from the results

  • present comparative research findings on a topic in a poster presentation


The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.

Mode of instruction

The first two weeks of the course consist of a weekly method workshop, chosen by the student. After these workshops a variety of weekly lectures and seminars will take place related to the different criminological and legal research methods. You are expected to prepare for the lectures by reading the literature assigned. The seminars focus on (group) assignments on a chosen topic Attendance of the seminars is compulsory, and proper preparation and active participation is expected.


  • Number of (2 hour) lectures: 8

  • Names of lecturers: All

  • Required preparation by students: see Blackboard


  • Number of (2 hour) seminars: 8

  • Names of lecturers: All

  • Required preparation by students: see Blackboard

Method workshops

  • Description: Method workshops

  • Number of (2 hour) workshop: 2

  • Names of lecturers: All

  • Required preparation by students: see Blackboard

Other methods of instruction
Weekly office hours during which the students can talk to the course coordinator. The office hours are not mandatory and students should send an email to the secretarial office ( at least one day (24 hours) prior in order to announce their wish to come to the office hours. Such requests should always include a short description of the reason for wanting to meet.

Students have to register for courses through uSis.


More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.

Reading list

See the Blackboard environment of the course.

Assessment method

  • An individual portfolio (70%) consisting of a written assignment on the chosen topic with an analysis of cross-national comparative data and a two pages ‘reflection’ on data collection and the conceptual differences of using these data.

  • A comparative poster presentation (30%), with an individual component for grading purposes (faculty requirement).

  • All components should be at least 5,5 in order to complete the course successfully. If this is not the case, the lowest partial grade will be registered as final grade.

  • There will be a resit for both the portfolio and the comparative poster.

  • The partial exams that have been finished with a passing grade, will be valid up to and including the academic year following the year in which the grade has been achieved. To this there is one exception: when the learning objectives, content, design or examination of a course have been changed, the course coordinator can decide that the validity of the partial exam concerned has expired due to didactic reasons. This will be stated in the course description of the academic year in which the change(s) will be implemented.

Employability and (academic) career

Participants train their methodological skills in comparing data from different jurisdictions and presenting their research outcomes.
The following skills that play a central role during this course are directly transferrable to the labor market:

  • Writing skills

  • Academic/research skills

  • Critical thinking

  • Exchanging knowledge from different backgrounds



  • Institute for Criminal Law and Criminology

  • Department: Criminology

  • Opening hours: 09.00 to 12.30

  • Telephone secretariat: 071 – 527 74 62

  • E-mail: