Ritical Review of a Security Research Project

Required Reading
Bell, J. (2007) Doing Your Research Project, Maidenhead: Open University.


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Assignment Question

A security manager employed at a large store is concerned at the extent of shoplifting in the store and has undertaken a piece of research which examines the problem. The research project has been written up as a?Research About Shopliftinga and is provided below.
You are asked to write a critical review of this research which focuses particularly on the methodology of the study.

Is the research problem clearly stated?
Is the purpose of the research made clear?
Is the choice of methods suitable?
Is the research data reliable and valid?
Do the statements made by the researcher follow from the methods that were used?
Does the research raise any ethical problems? If so, have they been properly addressed?

As part of your review you must suggest ways in which the research method might be improved and highlight the implications that these changes might strengthen the method.
You must ensure that you defend the criticisms that you make about the piece of research with reference to Bell, J. (2007) and other suitable methodological literature you may wish to read. Do note that when conducting a critical review of a piece of work that it is not acceptable to just state something has been done poorly. You must explain why.

a?Research About Shopliftinga


Shoplifting is a big problem for all shops. Because of this, and the fact that I work at a shop that has a big shoplifting problem, this research will be about shoplifting. There has been some previous research on shoplifting, but none in my particular shop so this previous research is probably not that relevant. However, it is clear that most theft is committed by customers, and not much is committed by staff. For this reason this research will only be about shoplifting by customers.

Objectives of Research

The purpose of this research will be to study shoplifting by customers. This research will focus on a number of aspects of this including the amount of shoplifting, the influence of new CCTV equipment on shoplifting and address why people shoplift.


Because of the number of things that were being studied, a number of methods were used in this study. These included the use of quantitative methods (e.g. official data and questionnaires) and qualitative data (e.g. interviews). This is a strength of this research because it is always best to use both quantitative and qualitative methods in studying anything.

The Amount of Shoplifting
In order to determine how much shoplifting there was at the shop where I work I looked through some official data and interviewed my line manager. The official data is a computerised record that records how much inventory is taken into the shop and compares this to the amount that is recorded as sold or otherwise accounted for. The results for four months are presented below.

Month Inventory In Inventory Accounted For Inventory Unaccounted For
May 132505 125162 7343
June 162402 152591 9811
July 178111 169654 8457
August 121821 112795 9026

The results show that there is a great deal of shoplifting, and also that this is increasing at an alarming rate.

The amount of shoplifting was also assessed by a semi-structured interview with my line manager. Jason Smith (my line manager) has worked at the shop for about seven months. This informal chat was conducted in the backroom at lunchtime and took about 10 minutes. I first showed Jason the results of the official data on shoplifting that I had already collected. I then asked him if he thought shoplifting was increasing. He said that he thought it was. He was pretty sure that both uniformed and plain clothes security officers were catching more people these days and that he had called the police twice in the past week to have shoplifters formally processed. He said a?you see more and more dodgy looking people in the shops now. I think that theyare not just doing us, but doing all the shops in town. Iad say that itas not just a problem for us, but for all of the retailers. Especially the ones that sell high quality good like us.a
From two different pieces of research it is clear that shoplifting is increasing and that something needs to be done to stop this serious offence.

Influence of New CCTV
Probably because of the very high rate of customer shoplifting the store owner decided to install CCTV cameras, and increase the number of uniformed security guards. In order to determine whether CCTV had an influence on reducing shoplifting I looked at the store data for the month before the cameras were installed and the month after. The CCTV was installed in January. The data is presented below

Month Inventory In Inventory Accounted For Inventory Unaccounted For
December (month before) 268142 254735 13407
February (month
after 139023 132072 6951

The results clearly show that the CCTV caused a really big decrease in shoplifting. I also conducted another semi-structured interview with my new line manger (Stella Johnson) and asked her if she thought CCTV was a good idea. This interview was conducted while we were working the tills. She said that she thought it was a good idea for our safety, but wasnat convinced that it was that useful in stopping shoplifting. However, when I told her about the data she said it must be a good idea.
Stella: a?When you see the numbers, itas clear, isnat it, that crimeas going up and up. The cameras and the tags are supposed to stop people from stealing things, and I think that they might do that. But the tags donat make you feel safer, do they?a
Me: a?No they donat. The cameras make you feel safer.a
Stella: a?Thatas right. The cameras make me, and the rest of the women, feel safer when weare standing out here and all you blokes are in the stock room!a

Why do People Shoplift?
Because of the extent of the shoplifting problem in our store and because this is clearly an increasing problem it is important to determine why people shoplift. In order to address this question it was thought better to undertake questionnaires. I designed a questionnaire which addressed why people shoplift and gave this to my friends and had my friends try and get their friends to fill it in. I gave out about 30 questionnaires and got 10 back. The 5 a item questionnaire can be seen below

Questionnaire About Shoplifting

Complete this questionnaire on shoplifting and then scan it into your computer and send it to me at dzz54lx.ac.uk.

Results of Questionnaire

1. Only six people answered this question. Three people said that they shoplifted for the Thrill, one person wanted the good and the other reported that they didnat know.
2. Only six people answered this question. Four people said that they shoplifted once or twice and two people reported that they shoplifted many times.
3. The ages of the people were 17, 23, 25, 24, 25, 24, 23, 26, 43, 56.
4. Six of the individuals reported being male and five reported being female.
5. Only four people answered this question. Two people reported that CCTV would stop them from shoplifting, one reported nothing and one reported something else.

Interpreting the Results of the Questionnaire
The results clearly suggest that people shoplift for the thrill. Also, most people shoplift only once or twice and CCTV appears to be the best bet to combat this