Researching homicide: methodological issues in the exploration of lethal violence
Introduction This, the first national study of murder in Britain, aims to develop a typology of murder and to use three different sources of data to develop a more empirically informed understanding of lethal violence. The specific aims of the Homicide in Britain study are to identify various types of murder; to examine each type in terms of risk factors, situational contexts and lethal intentions; and to make relevant comparisons across and within these types. This study addresses a highly complex and sensitive subject and poses many methodological questions about how to develop meaningful, valid, empirical data to inform a theoretical understanding of this phenomenon. In this chapter, we discuss the data collection techniques used in the Homicide in Britain study and locate these within the context of some of the traditional approaches used to investigate violence and crime. In particular, we consider the value of combining official statistics, indepth interviews and documentary analysis for investigating murder. We argue that research which adopts a context-specific approach and uses triangulation to generate qualitative and quantitative data can make an important contribution to an empirically and theoretically informed understanding of lethal violence and the situations and circumstances in which it occurs.