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Introduction to criminology LA2010

This module aims to provide students with an introduction to criminology as a field of inquiry.

This module explores the different ways in which crime is measured, studied and understood. It also looks at the various disciplinary schools of thought that have contributed to this endeavour, some of the key contemporary issues in criminological scholarship and debate.

Topics covered

Part A – Understanding Crime and Criminology.

In this part you explore some of the foundational ideas that frame our understanding of crime and criminology. This part establishes the groundwork enabling you to proceed through the module and gain a deeper understanding of crime and criminological scholarship.

Chapter 1 Understanding crime and criminology.

  • What is criminology?
  • What is crime?
  • Crime and the criminal law
  • Crime and the criminal justice system.

Chapter 2 Measuring crime.

  • Measuring crime
  • Police recorded crime statistics
  • National surveys
  • Crime data and Crime trends.

Chapter 3 Crime, the media and politics.

  • The media and crime
  • Media representations of crime
  • Moral panics and their consequences
  • 'Penal populism’.

Part B – Theories and concepts of crime and criminal behaviour.

In the second part you will learn about some of the key theories and concepts in criminological scholarship. These come from different disciplinary perspectives, and include ‘classical’ and ‘positivist’ approaches. These lay the foundations for modern criminology, sociological frameworks which dominated much of the 20th century, more recent ‘radical’ and ‘critical’ schools of thought, as well as some contemporary ideas about ‘risk’, ‘cultures of control’ and ‘governmentality’.

Chapter 4 Classical and positivist approaches.

  • Classical criminology: from Beccaria to Bentham
  • Cesare Lombroso and positivism
  • Biological positivism
  • Psychological positivism.

Chapter 5 Sociological approaches.

  • Emile Durkheim, Anomie and strain theory
  • The Chicago School
  • Cultural criminology
  • Labelling theory and stigma
  • Control theories.

Chapter 6 Radical and critical criminology.

  • Karl Marx and radical criminology
  • Feminist criminology
  • Realist criminology: ‘right realism’ and ‘left realism’.

Chapter 7 Late modernity, Governmentality and risk.

  • From modernity to late modernity
  • Foucault and governmentality
  • Risk and the culture of control
  • The new penology.

Part C – Contemporary trends in crime and criminology.

You will focus on some of key contemporary trends in crime. These include terrorism, organised crime, white-collar and corporate crime, and violent crime.

Chapter 8 Terrorism, crime and security.

  • What is ‘terrorism’?
  • New representations of terrorism
  • Understanding the terrorist threat
  • The social construction of terrorism.

Chapter 9 Organised crime.

  • What is ‘organised crime’?
  • Organised crime models and typologies
  • Countering organised crime
  • ‘Transnational’ organised crime
  • Countering transnational organised crime.

Chapter 10 White-collar and corporate crime.

  • Understanding white-collar and corporate crime
  • Opportunities for corporate crime
  • Confronting corporate crime
  • Hearing the victims of corporate crime.

Chapter 11 Violent crime.

  • (Mis)understanding violent crime
  • Homicide
  • Robbery
  • Sexual offences.

Part D – Critical issues in criminology.

In the final part, you will learn about some of the key cross-cutting issues in contemporary criminological scholarship. These are not types of crime as such but issues that cut across criminological debate. They include the role of race and gender in crime and criminal justice, the rise of ‘security’ as a central organising framework for understanding and addressing crime and disorder and the widespread proliferation of ‘surveillance’.

Chapter 12 Race and gender.

  • Ethnicity and victimisation
  • Ethnicity and criminal offending
  • Ethnicity in the criminal justice system
  • Gender and victimisation
  • Gender and criminal offending
  • Gender in the criminal justice system.

Chapter 13 Security.

  • In search of ‘security’
  • The ‘fragmentation’ of security
  • The fragmentation of policing
  • The ‘securitisation’ of crime.

Chapter 14 Surveillance and control.

  • Surveillance, surveillance and more surveillance
  • Conceptualising surveillance
  • Surveillance and policing
  • ‘Mass surveillance’
  • Privacy and human rights.

Learning outcomes

If you complete the module successfully you should be able to:

  • Appreciate and assess both the strengths and weaknesses of some of the key ways of measuring crime and establishing ‘crime patterns’
  • Understand and critically analyse the role played by the (mass) media in popular perceptions of crime, and how such perceptions are linked to policy responses
  • Understand, contrast and compare the different disciplinary approaches to understanding crime and criminality
  • Recognise and appreciate several key trends in criminal behaviour
  • Understand and explain the significance of some of the key issues in 21st century criminological scholarship
  • Contrast and compare different conceptual and disciplinary approaches, specifically in relation to how crime is understood and studied
  • Draw upon available empirical evidence to critically evaluate different arguments, concepts and assumptions about crime
  • Apply knowledge acquired to take an evidenced position in relation to current debates
  • Develop and refine the skills necessary for further criminological study.


3hr 15 mins unseen examination.

Essential reading

  • Newburn, T. Criminology. (Abingdon: Taylor & Francis, 2017) 3rd edition [ISBN 9781138643130].