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Causation and Threats to Validity 


Unit 2 DQ

Causation and Threats to Validity 


Part I: Read the following statements and consider what you learned from this week’s readings. For each statement, identify a) the implied independent variable, b) the implied dependent variable, and c) validity threats that might alternatively explain the relationship between the variables:


1. Hot weather results in more crime.

2. Full moons cause boating accidents.

3. More police equals less crime,


Part II: Consider the following applied research scenario and answer the questions that follow:

In 2015, border patrol agents in the Yuma (Arizona) sector began using drones along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. To examine the effects of using drones, researchers recorded yearly border patrol apprehensions between 2015 and 2019. They also collected Yuma’s yearly reported crime rates from the FBI during this time period, as well as demographic data from the U.S. Census. As illustrated in  charts , the number of apprehensions in 2019 was nearly 10 times the amount in 2015, while the crime rate decreased by 36%. During the same time, Census data showed that the proportion of persons aged 65 and older in Yuma increased by 46%. Given these results, the researchers concluded that the drones caused apprehensions to go up and caused crime to go down. They also concluded that the age of criminals was increasing in Yuma and likely in other areas of Arizona.


· What is the unit of analysis in Chart 1 and Chart 2?

· Describe one threat to internal validity and one threat to external validity in the study.

· Explain how the researchers have committed an ecological fallacy, citing the readings to support your answers.

· Give an example of a research hypothesis for the border patrol scenario given here.

Remember to cite and reference your sources.

Student Response #1 (Jeffery Bailey):

What is the unit of analysis in Chart 1 and Chart 2?

In chart one, in order to access the information of 69,269 arrest the researchers used a “unit” of analysis of Individual. In chart two the researchers used a unit of analysis of Groups to obtain this information.

Describe one threat to internal validity and one threat to external validity in the study.

One threat that could be a causation of a validity issue is the time dimension of the research, did they fudge on the time frame so that it would make their data look more impressive.

Explain how the researchers have committed an ecological fallacy, citing the readings to support your answers.

An ecological fallacy that can be introduced into this study is while using these drones there is a possibility that the data can be skewered, because using drones introduces the fallacy of border and precincts and intermingling. Also in using census data of individuals 65 years and older must further investigated, this study does not differentiate in their study of this border area which homes have a total medium household income or which ones are households of affluent means. (Maxfield, MG & Babbie, E.R, 2018)

Give an example of a research hypothesis for the border patrol scenario given here.

One hypothesis of the researchers is that drone use is a better and effective way of monitoring border activity and crime.

Maxfield, MG & Babbie, E.R. (2018). Research methods for criminal justice and criminology. Boston MA.: Cengage Learning.



Student Response #2: (Megan Tschirhart-Bell)


In examining the three statements in part one of this discussion the independent dependent variables were identified and the potential validity threats are presented for further discussion. In the first statement, the independent variable was the temperature of the area being investigated, while the dependent variable was the amount of crime at the time of the temperature reading. The potential threat to the validity of the hypothesis could be internal validity because of the other possible variables such as time of year, travel, population increase, or even the effects of increased temperatures can influence behaviors (Maxfield & Babbie, 2018). The second statement implies that the independent variable is the phase of the moon at the time the data is obtained, while the dependent variable is the number of boating accidents. Because there is a causal relationship between the two variables, being a cause and effect, there is a threat of external validity (Maxfield & Babbie, 2018). For the third statement, the number of police forces is identified as the independent variable while the effect on crime is the dependent variable.  The validity threat in this situation is constructed validity, in that there is a generalization from what is observed to what is being measured (Maxfield & Babbie, 2018).

In part two of this discussion, Chart 1’s unit of analysis is the individuals being apprehended, as the act of apprehending a suspect would be a method of describing a certain characteristic (Maxfield & Babbie, 2018). The unit of analysis in Chart 2 focuses on the crime rate per 100,000, because of this the unit of analysis could be social artifacts and how the criminal records are related between police and citizens (Maxfield & Babbie, 2018). In this study, one possible threat to internal validity is that the use of a drone as the independent variable and the number of border patrol apprehensions have a causal relationship. The causal relationship between the two variables could be explained by other possible factors, such as an increase in agents, or increased intelligence (Maxfield & Babbie, 2018). A threat to external validity could be the causal relationship between the variables having a cause and effect and must be able to be reconstructed (Maxfield & Babbie, 2018). Examining the use of drones in another location to establish trends in apprehensions could provide insight into the possible threat of external validity. An ecological fallacy is making assertions of individuals that are based on group characteristics (Maxfield & Babbie, 2018). The researchers in this study make assertions that the age of criminals was increasing because of Census data, which could not have played a significant role in the overall rate of crime. A proposed hypothesis is that an increase in drone usage by border patrol has a direct effect on illegal border crossing apprehensions.







Maxfield, M. G., & Babbie, E. R. (2018). Research methods for criminal justice and criminology. Cengage Learning.


Student Response #3: (Samer Silva)


From this week’s readings, we learned a lot about independent and dependent variables as well as validity threats. The statement of “Hot weather results in more crime” has an independent variable of the weather and a dependent variable of crime because the weather affects the crime rate in this experiment and statement. Within our reading this week it states that threats to validity are reasons that a conclusion or inference might be wrong (Trochim, n.d.). The threat to validity in this statement may be an issue in conclusion validity as the cause and effect may not be connected, and just a factor that may not have much experimental backing to explain the phenomena. The second statement of “Full moons cause boating accidents” has an independent variable of the phases of the moon, which in this case would be full moons and the dependent variable would be the boating accidents. The threats to validity is the circumstances surrounding the full moon, if there is a lighthouse present, what the ocean waves are that day, and so on and so forth. The third statement of “More police equals less crime” has an independent variable of more police and a dependent variable of the crime rate, which is less crime in this statement and experiment. The threat to validity here can stem from our reading as well as it states the question of sample sizes being too small or the measurements unreliable which shows cause for concern in this study as we do not know demographics or what other factors are surrounding this statement (Trochim, n.d.).

Regarding the applied research scenario, the unit of analysis in chart 1 is apprehensions by year and chart 2 is crime rates per 100,000. One threat to internal validity in this applied research scenario is the timeline of events as overtime, as apprehensions went up, individuals crossing the border may begin to be more aware and worrisome showing fallacy in the drones being the reason for the decrease in crime rates. One threat to external validity is stating that drones decrease crime rates as they increase apprehensions, but in a different sector or state, drones may not help crime rates at all depending on the demographics. Within our text, ecological fallacy refers to the danger of making assertions about individuals based off of the examination of groups and/or other aggregations (Maxfield & Babbie, 2018 p. 95). The ecological fallacy that was made in this applied research scenario was that the age of criminals was increasing in Yuma and other areas of Arizona as well with no concrete evidence of the other areas making the statement purely an assertion. A research hypothesis for the border patrol scenario here with the information provided could be “When drones are implemented for surveillance on border patrol, crime rates drop and apprehensions increase which indirectly influence the age of population and criminals”.


Maxfield, M. G., & Babbie, E. R. (2018). Research methods for criminal justice and criminology. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Trochim, P. (n.d.). Introduction to validity. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from  https://conjointly.com/kb/introduction-to-validity/









This unit’s readings consider how scientific research advances knowledge and establishes truths. You will learn about causality and the necessary requirements for establishing causal relationships between variables. Readings examine threats to causality and to the validity or accuracy of measurement and observation. You will read about interval validity and how it differs from external validity, as well as learn about steps for reducing threats to each. The readings will also explain units of analysis, as well as the ecological fallacy and individualistic fallacy, which can occur when findings based on a unit of analysis are improperly generalized to the actions and outcomes of another unit of analysis. You will read about general issues in research design, including research questions, hypotheses, and conceptually and operationally defining variables. Supplemental materials provide examples of strategic research in criminal justice, homeland security, and emergency management.

Read the following from the Maxfield and Babbie (2018) textbook:

· Chapter 4: “General Issues in Research Design,” pp. 82–98

Read the following from the Denscombe (2019) book:

· Chapter 1 sections:

· “The Structure of Research Proposals”

· “The Logic of Research Proposals”

Read the following from the Ayiro (2012) digital book in the Library:

· Chapter 2: “Identifying a Research Problem”, pp. 85–90

Read  Research Design: Steps in the Process .

Read the applied research study titled “Exploring the Potential for Body-Worn Cameras to Reduce Violence in Police–Citizen Encounters” as part of the Unit 2 Essay Assignment.

Supplemental Materials

Read the following sections from the Research Methods Knowledge Base:

· Unit of Analysis

· Introduction to Validity

· Conceptualizing

Read Purdue Global Writing Center’s guide on  Writing a Research Paper .

Review strategic applied research in action in the following:

· Emergency Management Research Resources

· Homeland Security Research Action Plan

· “Use of Research Evidence by Criminal Justice Professionals”

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