What makes scientific research different from researching possible motives for a crime committed?

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Scientific research is an inquiry-based investigation where a theory is proved or disproved through the application of a fixed methodology. 

The purpose of having a fixed methodology is to establish exactness in the process, in a way that will make it valid. It is the validity what will ensure that the same process is followed in other inquiries. 

Scientific research also uses very well-established parameters. 

  • data must be quantifiable
  • variables and control groups follow a specific series of characteristics.
  • terms used during inquiry are not used interchangeably. Terminology is firm
  • testability/predictability- there has to be a goal in mind and that notion (hypothesis) will stem the process.
  • controlled conditions- all that is used during this research has to be so exact that it can be reproduced again in the same manner, especially the conditions present at the time.

In contrast, investigative research considers a range of social theories of behavior that elicit inductive and deductive thinking to profile individuals. 

Investigative research is also a process of trial and error. This is because it does not follow the exactness in application and procedure as scientific investigation. In scientific research, the hypothesis (idea, notion) is what drives the scientific process so that such hypothesis is proved right or wrong. Investigative research does not follow the linear model scientific inquiry. Instead, it is more diverse in that more than one inquiry method is used. A ballistics investigator will gather whatever indication of firearms may be present at a crime scene while DNA techs will use their data to link any evidence to a DNA database of criminals. Then there are the behavior experts, the crime scene investigators that create the schematics of what happened, and the law interns will explore possible charges against the potential criminal. A lot of people put their forces together. However, there is a difference.

Investigative research will create a hypothesis AFTER all the facts are put together. This is how defense comes with one theory and prosecution comes up with another that will invalidate the defense's theory. 

Therefore, the key difference between these researches lies in the procedure, exactness, and rigidity of data collection and analysis found in the scientific process compared to the less rigorous methodology used in investigative research. Investigative research does not need to follow an exact process and more people are involved, each bringing data to be analyzed under a number of hypothetical scenarios. Both methods aim to prove or disprove a notion, but they do not use this notion for the same purpose. Those are the basic differences between the two.