chapter  7
Researching crime and justice
Pages 17

Why does Hong Kong have a low crime rate? How have triad societies persisted over time? What are ‘young night drifters’ and why are they seen as a problem? In what ways has the period of British colonialism impacted on Hong Kong’s justice system? Why does Hong Kong have such a high rate of female imprisonment? These questions are not only of interest to the public, as issues of political or topical importance, but also as the foundations of criminological research. If you are interested in investigating these issues as criminological research questions, we must delve deeply into one of the key foundations of criminological knowledge: research methods. Criminology is a diverse field of knowledge, held together by a commitment to rigorous and scholarly efforts to understand crime, criminalisation and harm. Criminologists may vary in their disciplinary backgrounds, philosophical traditions and focus of attention, but all seek to deepen and enrich our knowledge of this thing we call ‘crime’. In this chapter, the focus will be on the fundamentals of research methods –

namely, the ‘tools of the trade’ needed to answer the kinds of questions posed above. To do this, we must first travel backwards, to the early origins of criminology; travel sideways, to the development of research methods in the USA and Europe; then, finally, we will stay put and look at some of the ways that researchers have studied crime and justice in Hong Kong. Along the way, we will cover some core issues that must be dealt with for any student wishing to design a research project in Hong Kong.1