Doctoral Dissertations Examining Rehabilitation: A Review and Critique

William Scott Cunningham, University at Albany

ABSTRACT
Systematic reviews of the treatment literature generally tend to reach two conclusions. First, these reviews tend to conclude that some interventions produce lower levels of recidivism among offenders. Second, authors have a tendency to stress the point that methodological inqdequacies in outcomes research interfere with the ability to draw more meaningful conclusions. By examining a random sample of dissertation abstracts published in 1999, this paper reviews the work being done by doctoral students studying offender outcomes in an attempt to assess the methodological rigor of their work. As a result of critiques past and present, it was hypothesized that doctoral dissertations would employ methodological techniques that are improvements over past and current practice. Although descriptive in nature, the paper provides a mechanism by which to evaluate the quality of research being done by the newest members of the field, those who successfully complete and defend a doctoral dissertation. Unfortunately for adherents to the rehabilitative ideal, results indicte that the work being done by the next generation of researchers largely mirrors previous work in the field and that substantial refinements to methodology must be made before more sizeable conclusions can be made about the effectiveness of correctional treatment.

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Updated 05/20/2006