module specification

SC4000 - Introduction to Criminological Theory (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Introduction to Criminological Theory
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 300
108 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
192 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 20%   Learning reflection
In-Course Test 40%   Class test
Coursework 40%   Essay, 2000 words
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year North Friday Afternoon
Year (Spring and Summer) North Friday Morning

Module summary

The module provides a study of crime and its control through considering the history of criminological thought from the Enlightenment to the present day.  The module begins by exploring classicism and traces the shift towards positivistic theories and later critical forms of criminological theory.  Students are introduced to these theories through relating them to the social context in which issues to do with crime and deviance now occur.

Module aims

The module aims to:

  1. Examine the emergence and development of criminological theory
  2. Examine the different ways in which different criminological traditions theorise crime and its social control
  3. Examine how the assumptions which underpin different traditions provide for different strategies of intervention and control
  4. Develop students’ learning and transferable skills in preparation for modules at levels 5 and 6.


The module introduces students to the history of criminological thought beginning with the juridical classicist scholars of the Enlightenment in whose work Criminology is rooted and the challenges to this tradition posed by positivistic theory.  Psychological and sociological approaches to crime, particularly the work of Durkheim and Merton, are examined in this context.  This section goes on to examine the work of the Chicago School including social disorganisation theory, differential association theory and subcultural theory and its derivatives.  The later sections of the programme consider contemporary debates in Criminology including those arising from feminism, Marxism, cultural criminology and left and right realism.  A major focus here is the debate between cultural and administrative criminologies.

Learning and teaching

A variety of teaching and learning methods are employed to facilitate the development of subject-specific and transferable skills.  These include lectures, seminars, workshops, study skills sessions and reading groups.  To facilitate the learning process students are provided with a regularly updated Blackboard page upon which study resources are located including relevant publications and hyperlinks to relevant web-based resources.

In addition to formal lectures and seminars contact time is used as an opportunity to develop reflexive learning through engaging students in a range of exploratory and research-based activities;  studentsevaluate their own practice in relation to their personal development.  A session is set aside in the final week for students to reflect upon what they have learned.

Students are expected to engage in approximately 6 hours per week of self-directed study and writing.


Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

  1. Identify the fundamental assumptions of the theoretical traditions they have studied on the module
  2. Compare and contrast different approaches to the study of crime and its control and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches
  3. Specify the ways in which different approaches lead to different ethical positions and policy outcomes
  4. Organise material and reflect critically upon the learning process and skills they have acquired in relation to this
  5. Employ appropriate resources including web-based resources in undertaking research and engaging reflexively in the learning process.

Assessment strategy

There are four items of assessment.  Three units of formative assessment precede one summative assessment.

1) A 1000 word learning reflection in which students identify, reference and summarise key learning points (learning outcomes 1, 2, 4 and 5),

2) A one hour multiple choice class test asking the student to demonstrate their comprehension  of the distinctions between key theories, theorists and concepts (learning outcomes  1,2 and 3)

3) The final assessment requires students to complete a 2000 word essay, in which they describe and evaluate a key theoretical approach (Learning outcomes  1 – 5)


Burke, R. H. (2005, 2009) Introduction to Criminological Theory, Cullompton:Willan
Croall, H (2011) Crime and Society in Britain, Longman, London
Newburn, T. (2007) Criminology, Cullompton:Willan
Newburn, T. (ed) (2009) Key Readings in Criminology, Cullompton:Willan
Tierney, J (2006) Criminology: Theory and Context, Harlow:Longman
Valier, C (2002) Theories of Crime and Punishment, Harlow:Longman
White, R & Haines, F. (1997) Crime and Criminology: an Introduction, Oxford:Oxford University Press
Williams, F. &McShane M. (2004) Criminological Theory, NJ:Pearson Education