Considering the under-researched nature of SCADs and the absence of theory, the most feasible methodology reasoned to be appropriate for achieving the research aim is Strauss and Corbin’s (1990; 1994; 1998; see also Bryant, 2009; Charmaz, 2000; Corbin and Strauss, 1990; 2008) evolved grounded theory methodology (GTM). The research process will develop in four phases, where each stage of the process will progress in accordance to the principles of the GTM, thus serving as a basis for informing further data collection, up to the point where saturation has been reached, and all resulting categories have been successfully integrated into a theoretical framework. The resulting grounded theory will aim to explain the phenomenon under inquiry in new theoretical terms, explicate the properties of the theoretical categories, and demonstrate the causes and conditions under which SCADs occur, as well as the citizenry’s response to diverse typologies of political criminality.
The first stage of the process – the stage in which you have been invited to participate – involves an asynchronous online focus groups via an online forum, where the participant pool is made up of scholars, academics, and members of democracy-oriented (international) non-governmental organisations ([I]NGOs) and civil society organisations. I trust that this method will not only allow for an inter-disciplinary exploration of the topic of study, in spite of participants’ geographical (and professional) separation, but will also take steps towards a shared understanding of such crimes, which is neither entirely academic, nor completely ‘professional’. This method will not only allow individuals to interact in spite of geographical distances and time zone differences, but will also balance the power relationship between participants on the one hand, and participants and the researcher on the other hand (Illingworth, 2001), by ensuring that individuals:
- can participate in the discussion when this is convenient for them, without feeling pressured by time (or other participants) when they are compiling their response (Joinson, 2003);
- have the time to think about their response in more depth (William, Clausen, Robertson, Peacock and McPherson, 2012);
- skip questions they do not want to answer (Illingworth, 2001);
- are not required to travel to the site of the focus group (Kenny, 2005); and
- do not have their personal space physically invaded by others’ presence (Oringderff, 2004).
The completion of Phase 1.1. will provide a theoretical framework that, albeit incomplete, will inform:
- what is deemed to be an ‘established’ and ‘functioning’ democracy;
- the variables to be considered when mapping cases of political criminality, and drafting research instruments in the later stages of the project.