Study Skills for Criminology


John Harrison, Mark Simpson, Olwen Harrison & Emma Martin

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    At the time we wrote the first edition of this book we stated that it ‘has been written to take account of some of the significant changes that are taking place in Higher Education’ (Harrison et al. 2005): we pointed to a number of areas of change that were evident, including widening participation, a greater emphasis on vocational programmes, a focus on employability skills and the introduction of Foundation Degrees. As we write the second edition we find ourselves in an equally fluid time for Higher Education. While these changes are focused on student funding, controlling student numbers and creating new opportunities for studying for a degree, the underlying rationale for this text remains valid.

    The rapid expansion in student numbers over the past five years has slowed down and meeting the entry criteria is a major factor in being offered a place at all universities. The introduction of new fees does not alter this situation. The idea that those of you coming to university need to develop good study habits that will enable you to get the most out of your programme of study while making the most of your experience of university life remains as important as it was previously.

    The intention in this second edition, as it was in the first, is to produce a guide designed to develop skills for this level of study which will therefore be useful when you first arrive at university and throughout the duration of your degree.

    Another significant feature of learning and the gathering of data has been the rapidly changing nature of communications and data collection. The use of the internet is commonplace, and we see blogs and podcasts being used in a variety of learning environments. Social networking sites have developed at such a rate that universities are on Facebook and Twitter; also many use YouTube for marketing purposes. All of this suggests the potential for a vastly different learning experience than existed even five years ago.

    This rapid change has not completely overtaken the more traditional ways in which universities function, and resources and assessments continue to require you to apply yourself to gain the best grades. So this book still has a place in helping you to become familiar with same three areas that we identified in 2005:

  • Glossary

    This glossary contains a combination of academic terms and criminological terms, it is not an exclusive listing and more in-depth definitions and discussions of these terms can be found in other literature. Examples of such texts can be found throughout this book and include The Sage Dictionary of Criminology (McLaughlin and Muncie, 2006). The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (Maguire et al., 2007) and texts on criminological theory.

    Anomie Ethical normlessness or deregulation, associated with the work of Durkheim and Merton.

    Behaviour modification Attempts to alter behaviour (of offenders) using learning theories.

    Biological Criminology The belief that certain people inherit a genetic or physiological predisposition to commit crime. Lombroso and Ferrero are early proponents of this view.

    Chicago School School of thought linking environmental factors and crime.

    Classicism Theoretical perspectives that are underpinned by free will and rational choice. Seeks to develop a criminal justice system in which punishment is proportionate to the criminal act and acts as a deterrent. Key here is individual choice, the common interest and the social contract.

    Community sentences A range of penalties imposed for offending behaviour that does not involve custody. Often seen as alternatives to custody.

    Conflict Theory Often contrasted with the positivist view that there is a consensus in society. Involves conflict based on group identity, class identity or cultural identity. Often seen as relating to power and authority and attempts to understand the way in which the criminal law serves the interests of specific groups in society.

    Corporate crime Acts punishable by legislation that are the result of deliberate actions taken by formal organisations. Usually includes large companies, businesses and corporations. Not to be confused with ‘white-collar crime’.

    Crime control The view that the main role of criminal justice agencies is to control crime. The primary function of the criminal justice system is the apprehension, conviction and punishment of offenders.

    Criminal justice The process through which the state deals with unacceptable behaviour. Involves arrest, trial, conviction and punishment of offenders. The agencies involved on this constitute ‘the criminal justice system’.

    Cultural Criminology A recent perspective that emphasises the importance of style, image, representation and meaning in the construction of crime and crime control.

    Cybercrime Electronic communications used to commit illegal acts. Typically involves the internet and web-based information and communication technologies.

    Decarceration A deliberate move away from imprisonment as the predominant penal sanction.

    Delinquency Loosely used to refer to youthful misbehaviour.

    Deterrence The use of sanctions to prevent criminal activity. Seeks to demonstrate the penalties for criminal acts outweigh the benefits to the offender.

    Deviance A term used to describe those acts that deviate from accepted social norms. It is often contested as the concept of deviance is relative rather than absolute.

    Deviancy amplification When media, public, criminal justice agencies and the state react to non-conformity in such a way that rather than controlling deviancy they increase it.

    Discrimination The unfavourable treatment of individuals or groups based on criteria such as age, gender, sex, race, culture, disability, ethnicity, language, social class, disability, sexual preference or any other inappropriate criteria.

    Due process The administration of justice according to legal rules that are transparent to the public and are seen as fair and just.

    Ethnography A research method based on the study of small groups, situations and contexts. Emphasises the importance of how individuals interpret and socially construct their world.

    Fear of crime Anxiety caused by the belief that individuals or groups are in danger of becoming victims of crime. This fear can be rational or irrational.

    Feminist criminologies Analysis using feminist or critical theories to question the place of gender/sex in understanding crime and justice.

    Focus groups Interviews involving a number of individuals who discuss a specific topic supported by a facilitator. The data collected through the interaction that takes place are used to inform and develop research projects.

    Folk devil Seen as the stereotypical ‘trouble maker’ or ‘drain on society's resources’ and used to demonstrate the failings in society. Presented in a stylised manner by the mass media.

    Functionalism A perspective that is based on the understanding that society is structured in a specific way and sees crime and deviance as ‘social facts’. These ‘facts’ are seen to perform a function in maintaining the smooth running of society. Functionalists would reject the view that criminals are pathological or abnormal.

    Genetics An attempt to identify the biological source/s of criminal and anti-social behaviour.

    Hate crime Crimes committed against individuals, groups or property and motivated by hatred, bias or prejudice. This is usually based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion.

    Hedonism The pursuit of pleasure at the expense of rationality. Can be associated with risk and excitement in relation to crime.

    Hidden crime Crimes that fail to appear in official statistics, go unreported or are under-reported.

    Incapacitation One justification for punishment that seeks to prevent re-offending by the physical or geographical removal of an individual from the opportunity to commit crime. This can include imprisonment, banishment or amputation of limbs, with the death penalty being the ultimate form of incapacitation.

    Incarceration Confining deviant populations into specialist institutions for punishment or treatment.

    Informal justice This is an attempt to deal with criminal and anti-social behaviour without recourse to the formal processes of the criminal justice system.

    Labelling The sociological understanding of the way in which certain groups and individuals are classified and categorised by others in society. The stereotyping leads the labelled individuals to respond to their label which then reinforces the self-perception of individuals and the perception of society to those groups.

    Longitudinal studies A study collected over time using the same research participants, sometimes at key points in their life course. Sometimes referred to as cohort studies.

    Moral panic Reaction to behaviours, people or groups that is disproportionate to any real threat posed to society's values and is based on stereotypical, media representations. Often leads to calls for greater social control.

    Official crime statistics Based on data recorded by the police and the Courts. Indicates the extent of crime. There are debates that question the relevance of these figures in relation to the amount of actual crime committed.

    Participant observation Collection of data through active participation with groups or individuals who are the subject of the study.

    Positivism This theoretical approach emerged during the nineteenth century. It argues that social relations and events can be studied using methods that are drawn from the natural sciences. Positivists seek to explain and predict future behaviour.

    Probation Supervision of offenders in the community by officers of the Court.

    Reflexivity Monitoring and reflecting on all aspects of research, from initial idea to writing final report.

    Sub-culture Often applied in relation to delinquency. Refers to different values that challenge the mainstream norms of the dominant culture.

    Underclass Refers to those who are seen to be poor but have adopted values that lack morality. Are ‘feckless’ or ‘undeserving’.


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    Herrnstein, R.J. and Murray, C. (1996) The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in America. New York: Free Press.
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    Home Office (1997) No More Excuses. London: Home Office. Also available at:
    Hudson, B. (2003) Justice in the Risk Society. London: Sage.
    Hughes, G., McLaughlin, E. and Muncie, J. (eds) (2002), Crime Prevention and Community Safety: New Directions. London: Sage.
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    Lilly, J.R., Cullen, F.T. and Ball, R.A. (2011) Criminological Theory: Context and Consequences (5th edn). London: Sage.
    MacDonald, R. (ed.) (1997) Youth, the ‘Underclass’ and Social Exclusion. London: Routledge.
    Maguire, M., Morgan, R. and Reiner, R. (2002) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (3rd edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Maguire, M., Morgan, R. and Reiner, R. (2007) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (4th edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    McLaughlin, E. and Muncie, J. (eds) (1996) Controlling Crime. London: Sage.
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    McLaughlin, E. and Muncie, J. (2006) The Sage Dictionary of Criminology (2nd edn). London: Sage.
    Mead, G.H. (1934) Crime Law and Social Science. New York: Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich.
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    Appendix 1: Sample Answers to Activity 7a

    Activity 7a asks you to identify ten key issues/debates from the synopsis on youth crime. The following is an example of ten such areas. It is important to note, however, that these are not the only ten issues/debates that can be identified; you may well be able to think of others:

    • Single-parent families. What does this term mean? Is the relationship between crime and one-parent families strong? If so, is it consistent across all single-parent family types?
    • Why do young people commit crime? What does research show in relation to why young people commit crime? Boredom? Buzz? Drugs?
    • Drugs and crime. (In your answer, you may choose to focus on one of the possible reasons discussed in 2 above, either because the evidence is strong or it is a recurring theme within the literature.) What is the role of drugs? What is the relationship between drug use and crime? (You need to keep this brief, however, and always relate it to the question. Therefore, one could argue, for example, that it is more about peer group, drugs and external factors outside the family that are more likely to play a role in shaping criminal careers.)
    • Underclass/moral decline. Is there an underclass? Has there been moral decline typified by single-parent families? Is there an ideal family type?
    • Poverty and crime. Is it more to do with poverty rather than a decline in morality? Is there a relationship between poverty and crime?
    • Crime types. What types of crime are we discussing? Is it that certain types of crime are linked? For example, visible street crime rather than white-collar crime.
    • Poverty, crime type and policing. It may be that because of poverty the young person lives in an area that is over-policed and they commit visible crimes and therefore are more likely to be involved in behaviour that is detected.
    • Responsibility. Who should be responsible for the behaviour – the child, their parent/guardian? What is the role of schooling and peer group?
    • External family factors. What is the role of the local school, employment market, youth service provision, for example? Are these issues more important than the family?
    • Discipline. What is the role of discipline? Is crime created as a result of families without fathers and therefore a disciplinarian?

    Appendix 2: Rationale for Activity 10g

    Activity 10g is asking you to consider the concept that crime is a consequence of social factors and the influence of social institutions. This is significant when we try to understand why, how and when criminal activity takes place. Essentially, this challenges the notion that we can identify criminals using scientific research. Within this extract (which should represent a small part of your reading) we can find references and quotations that would be useful in constructing a debate around the key debates discussed in Chapter 10.

    There is for example, Mead's (1934) concept of crime being a consequence of the way behaviour is perceived by others or, indeed, self-perception. As the authors suggest, crime is a consequence of ‘social interaction’. This challenges the view that criminals behave as they do because of genetic, psychological or physical factors, but rather as a consequence of their relationship to the communities in which they live.

    Crime, then, is a not a universal phenomenon. Concepts of what is and is not criminal vary across, time, place and societies and, to this extent, crime is a socially created phenomenon, rather than an absolute form of unacceptable behaviour.

    Appendix 3: Useful Websites

    The authors do not take any responsibility for the content of the websites.

    Corporate and White-Collar Crime

    Corporate Accountability

    Crime Prevention/Reduction

    Catch 22

    Home Office Crime Reduction Website

    International Centre for Crime Prevention

    NACRO (National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders)

    Courts and Criminal Justice

    Audit Commission

    Court Service

    European Court of Justice

    Inspection of Court Services


    Magistrates Association

    Domestic Violence

    Black Women's Rape Action Project

    Campaign Against Domestic Violence

    CPS – Domestic Violence

    Home Office Domestic Violence Pages

    Men's Aid

    Ministry of Justice

    Women's Aid


    Alcohol Concern


    European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction

    Home Office Drugs Website

    Institute for Alcohol Studies

    Scottish Drugs Forum


    Black Britain

    Commission for Racial Equality

    Institute for Race Relations


    Fawcett Society

    Women in Prison

    Human and Civil Rights

    Amnesty International

    British Institute of Human Rights

    Civil Rights


    Innocent Until Proven Guilty (remand prisoners)



    Miscarriages of Justice

    Office of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Human Rights


    United Nations Children's Fund


    Association of Chief Police Officers

    Association of Chief Police Officers – Scotland

    Association of Police Authorities

    Criminal Records Bureau


    Gay Police Association

    Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary

    Home Office Police Reform

    National Black Police Association

    Police Service UK

    Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA)

    Prisons and Probation

    Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales

    Her Majesty's Prison Service for England and Wales

    National Offender Management Service


    Howard League for Penal Reform

    Howard League for Penal Reform in Scotland

    Inside Out Trust

    Northern Ireland Prison Service

    Northern Ireland Probation Board

    Prison News

    Prison Reform Trust

    Prison and Probation Ombudsman

    Scottish Prison Service


    Restorative Justice

    Mediation UK

    Restorative Justice Consortium

    Restorative Justice Online

    Youth Justice Board – Restorative Justice

    Youth, Youth Crime and Youth Justice


    Centre for Adolescent Rehabilitation (C-FAR)

    Children's Rights Alliance

    Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime

    Save the Children

    Youth Justice Board


    National Centre for Victims of Crime

    Victim Support

    Appendix 4: Further Reading

    Criminological Theory

    Criminological theory is probably the best place to start with your further reading as it will provide you with a basis to explore many of the key issues and debates within the discipline. The following texts are a good place to start:

    Lilly, J.R., Cullen, F.T. and Ball, R. (2011) Criminological Theory: Context and Consequences (5th edn). London: Sage.

    Tierney, J. (2006) Criminology: Theory and Context. Harlow: Pearson Education.

    Vold, G.B., Bernard, T. and Snipes, J.B. (2009) Theoretical Criminology (6th edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    The Criminal Justice System

    We have discussed various aspects of the criminal justice system throughout this book and some of the texts identified here are referred to in previous chapters. They are a good basis on which to begin to develop your understanding of this key aspect of your degree. It is important that you remember that legislation relating to crime and disorder is constantly changing and you need to keep up to date with these changes. The following are examples of accessible texts but there are many more that deal with the topic:

    Cavadino, M. and Dignan, J. (2007) The Penal System: An Introduction (4th edn). London: Sage.

    Davies, M., Croall, H. and Tyrer, C.J. (2005) Criminal Justice: An Introduction to the Criminal Justice System of England and Wales. London: Longman.

    McConville, M. and Wilson, G. (2002) The Handbook of the Criminal Justice Process. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Home Office Reports and White Papers that discuss reform of the criminal justice process are also of value. These are available on the Home Office website (


    Police studies are increasingly a significant part of many Criminology degree programmes and there are a number of useful texts that provide a good overview of the history and development of policing.

    Johnston, L. (2000) Policing Britain: Risk, Security and Governance. Harlow: Longman.

    Rawlings, P. (2002) Policing: A Short History. Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.

    Reiner, R. (2010) The Politics of the Police (4th edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Again, the Home Office produce research papers and reports relating to policing and these are an equally valuable source (

    Criminal Justice and Punishment

    There have been some important reports written in relation to reform of the criminal courts and the sentencing process. These are easily accessible and provide some useful information in relation to the way this aspect of criminal justice is changing. One report is cited below. This is the basis on which much of the change and restructuring of the Court system in England and Wales is taking place.

    Hough, M. and Jacobson, J. (2003) The Decision to Imprison: Sentencing and the Prison Population. London: Prison Reform Trust.

    Hudson, B. (2003) Understanding Justice. Buckingham: Open University Press.

    Sanders, A. and Young, R. (2000) Criminal Justice (2nd edn). London: Butterworth.

    ‘Race’, Crime and Justice

    There has been considerable discussion in relation to the subject of ‘race’ and the criminal justice process. Numerous reports have focused on the issue and there are some useful texts that will enable you to develop your understanding.

    Bowling, B. and Phillips, C. (2002) Race, Crime and Criminal Justice. London: Longman.

    Cook, D. and Hudson, B. (1993) Racism and Criminology. London: Sage.

    Hudson, B. (ed.) (1996) Race Crime and Justice. Aldershot: Ashgate.

    Russell-Brown, K. (2009) The Colour of Crime (2nd edn). London and New York: New York University Press.

    Crime Prevention

    For some time the issue of crime prevention has become increasingly important. Government policy has focused considerable attention on the role communities can play in this as well as the way in which agencies can work together to impact on crime and disorder.

    Crawford, A. (1998) Crime Prevention and Community Safety: Politics, Policies and Practices. London: Longman.

    Farrall, S. and Calverley, A. (2006) Understanding Desistance from Crime: Emerging Theoretical Directions in Resettlement and Rehabilitation. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

    Hughes, G. (1998) Understanding Crime Prevention: Social Control Risk and Late Modernity. Buckingham: Open University Press.

    Hughes, G., McLaughlin, E. and Muncie, J. (eds) (2002) Crime Prevention and Community Safety: New Directions. London: Sage.

    General Introduction

    In addition to the above texts and those identified earlier in the book relating to specific topic areas, there a number of good texts that provide a general introduction and background to the discipline of Criminology.

    Maguire, M., Morgan, R. and Reiner, R. (2007) The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (4th edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    McLaughlin, E. and Muncie, J. (2006) The Sage Dictionary of Criminology (2nd edn). London: Sage.

    McLaughlin, E., Muncie, J. and Hughes, G. (eds) (2003) Criminological Perspectives: A Reader. London: Sage.

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