Methodological Issues in Studying Mass Violence

Methodological Issues in Studying Mass Violence

Sarah E. Daly
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5670-1.ch002
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This chapter offers a review of the literature of the nature of studying mass violence. It is often problematic, difficult, or nearly impossible due to small sample sizes, incomplete or inaccurate information, or discrepancies even deciding what exactly “mass violence” is. This chapter reviews the literature for methodological approaches, summarizes qualitative and quantitative methods and findings, and discusses the challenges of mass violence methodologies while also proposing solutions, suggestions, and directions for future research.
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Compared to a host of other criminal justice topics, there is relatively little research on active shootings in the United States. While drugs, gangs, mass incarceration, and reentry remain ongoing problems in society, the public often may view these issues as those that happen to “others.” However, active shootings as they have occurred in past decades have happened to those whom the public views as innocents—children at a school, employees working their typical shift, students at a university, or people attending movies or shopping at malls. These incidents have sparked debates about a number of issues including gun control, mental illness, bullying, and violent media. Yet, in a review of the literature, we see that despite many types of research studies, both researchers and the public know fairly little about the processes by which people become the active shooters we see in the news. At the most fundamental level, researchers cannot decide on a common definition of a mass shooting.

This chapter aims to identify the types of research in which academics have engaged and the various ways that they have studies the issue of active and mass shootings. The chapter begins by briefly outlining the definitional problems that plague active shooting research. It continues by examining prior research and the ways in which various academics have approached active and mass shooting research. The chapter closes by discussing the limitations of the prior research and the challenges of studying rare events to highlight what we, as academics, know and to drive future studies and begin a discussion about definitional issues in mass shooting research.

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