Research Design and Methods Analysis

Research Design and Methods Analysis: 1995 Survey of Adults on Probation (SAP)


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            The 1995 Survey of Adults on Probation (SAP) was the first to detail data on adult probation incidences in the United States. The research involved collection of background information on a representative national scale from over 2.5 million adult victims of probation. According to the available data on the 1995 Survey of Adults on Probation, the main areas covered included criminal history, involvement in drug and alcohol abuse and treatment programs (BJS, 1995). In the research, administrative records of almost 6 thousand American adults on probation were reviewed and personal interviews conducted.

In this paper, the author critique the research design, data collection methods and the rationale behind the sampling and data analysis techniques employed. The author also seeks to discuss if alternative methods of data collection and analysis could have been applicable.

Research design and its implementation

            The 1995 Survey of Adults on Probation (SAP) was conducted by the Bureau of Justice and Statistics (BJS). The survey was designed with the objective of establishing the characteristics of adults on probation in the United States. In the survey, administrative records of 5867 adults on probation were reviewed with the aim of establishing their current offenses and sentences, their criminal histories and the levels at which they were being supervised by the criminal justice system (BJS, 1995). The survey was also designed to qualitatively determine the level of participation by probationers in rehabilitative programs as well as outcomes of their disciplinary hearings and disciplinary punishments.

Methodology used in gathering data

            To realize the objectives of the survey, the Bureau of Justice and Statistics (BJS) engaged in reviewing adult probation records from 167 administrative agencies across the United States. Such particularly involved state, county, and municipal government adult probation records. According to available information, the 1995 Survey of Adults on Probation was based on the 1991 census of adult Probation and Parole agencies. Still, the information indicates that the survey involved 2627 agencies, 43 of which were self-representing. In addition, 24 of the agencies had sub-agencies totaling to 110 (BJS, 1995).

            Surveyors contacted state, county, and municipal agencies which had taken part in the probation and parole survey of 1991 and requested for the records of all adults on probation. Contact was then made to almost six thousand adult Americans on probation (BJS, 1995). The aim was to establish their criminal records, sentence terms, and the level of supervision as well as the extent to which municipal, county, states and the federal authorities were involved in the rehabilitation of those who were on probation for alcohol and drug related charges.

            From the data available, 5,867 adults on probation were contacted for interviews (BJS, 1995). To comply with research ethics, probationers were given the freedom to choose whether to participate in the survey and the freedom to choose to withdrawal from the survey if they found it to interfere with their constitutionals rights.

Choosing of samples and rationale behind it

            Based on the survey design, the participating agencies targeted administrative records on examining probationers based on the felons they had committed and the rationale behind the sentences they were awarded. By choosing to involve authorities up to the municipal level, the Bureau of Justice and Statistics aimed to capture samples which could be as representative of all American adults on probation as possible (BJS, 1995). There was a need to sample from a diverse demographic range as well as the need to involve all population groups in American society like the African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans as well as Americans of Caucasian descent.

            The objective of a nationwide sample was to establish if there was bias in sentencing of felons and misdemeanor cases within the American Criminal Justice System and the rates of relapse into criminal tendencies after probation (BJS, 1995). There was also the need to establish the extent to which governmental and non-governmental agencies were involved in the rehabilitation of minor offenders and how effective such correction measures were in rehabilitating adult American citizens involved in minor offences. This was very instrumental in defining effective methods of crime prevention methods in the society.

Improvement of research design and methodology

            The 1995 Survey of Adults on Probation involved the study of 5867 adults on probation. The United States is a very large society composed of many racial and ethnic groups. For a more conclusive survey, the research should have included a larger survey reflecting the aforementioned diversity in American society. In the report, it is noted that only 2030 probationers completed personal interviews for the purpose of this study. A larger sample would have made the findings of the study more representative and applicable (Perecman, 2006) in the American Criminal Justice System.

            The survey also involved research on adults on probation only. The wider society should have been involved so that the opinion of the American public with regard to this area of implementation of justice should be structured (Jeffrey, George & Nancy, 2009). Public safety is most affected by minor offenses and therefore public opinion should matter a lot in the dispensation of justice for minor offenders.


            It is established that the 1995 Survey of Adults on Probation aimed not only in quantifying the number of defendants convicted for minor offenses but also to qualify the relationship between their crime gravity and associated sentences. The survey was also instrumental in establishing the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in ensuring sustainable correction of crime offenders in the community. However, the research could have given more reliable findings if it involved a larger adult population as well as incorporating opinions from the general public.


Bureau of Justice Statistics, (BJS). (1995). “Characteristics of Adults on Probation.” Retrieved

on 28th May, 2010 from

Jeffrey A. G., George A. M. & Nancy L. L. (2009). Research Methods in Applied Settings: An

Integrated Approach to Design and Analysis. Taylor and Francis.

Perecman, E. (2006). A Handbook for Social Science Field Research: Essays & Bibliographic

Sources on Research Design and Methods. Sage.

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