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29 J. Res. Crime & Delinquency 3 (1992)

handle is hein.journals/jrcd29 and id is 1 raw text is: 


EXPERIMENTATION IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE:
                           EDITORS' INTRODUCTION

                                        DAVID   WEISBURD
                                            JOEL   GARNER



   Random  assignment of treatments to subjects is the defining feature of
experimental research. It provides a statistical basis for making the assump-
tion that the outcomes observed by researchers result from the interventions
that they study. In contrast, correlational or quasi-experimental designs are
always plagued by the possibility that some important confounding factor
has not been taken into account by investigators (Farrington 1983; Brody
1978). Experiments, accordingly, have a distinct advantage over nonexperi-
mental studies. They allow researchers to make an unambiguous link be-
tween causes and their effects (Campbell and Stanley 1966; Sechrest and
Rosenblatt 1987).
   Whatever the benefits of experimental research, experiments have until
recently remained on the sidelines in the development of empirical criminol-
ogy. R. A. Fisher pioneered random assignment and basic experimental
procedures for field experiments in the 1920s (see Fisher 1923). The first
randomized experiments in criminology were begun in the 1950s (e.g., see
Reimer and Warren 1957; Berntsen and Christiansen 1965). Although recent
reviews suggest that the use of experimental methods through the 1950s and
1960s was much more common   than had once been assumed (see Farrington
1983; Dennis 1988; Weisburd, Sherman, and Petrosino 1990), such efforts
are noteworthy more for their rarity than for their contributions to debate
about major theoretical concerns in criminology.
   The reasons for the dearth of important experimental studies had much to
do with questions of feasibility and research ethics. It was not clear that
criminologists could overcome the technical and bureaucratic problems of
randomly  assigning subjects in the real world of crime and criminal justice.
Irrespective of technical constraints, criminologists were generally hesitant
when  confronted with the task of allocating punishment based on their
interventions in the justice system. It was one thing to observe the operations

JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN CRIME AND DELINQUENCY, Vol. 29 No. 1, Febmary 1992 3-6
@ 1992 Sage Publications, Inc.
                                                                   3


from the SAGE Social Science Collections. All Rights Reserved.

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