|Sociology 361 : Criminology|
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This course is designed to dispel myths and popular misconceptions about the extent of crime and violence and about who commits crime in the United States. After developing an understanding of the basic contours of criminal offending, we use crime theories to help us understand why some people engage in crime and others do not, why some communities have higher crime rates than others, and why crime rates are high during some periods of history and low in others. Students will also come away with a better understanding of what has influenced their own decisions regarding involvement in crime. Additional topics include: defining what is criminal, measuring criminal offending, media portrayals of crime, and characteristics of offenses such as homicide, burglary, drunk driving, and prostitution. These issues and topics are presented using a sociological perspective, meaning that students will become more aware of the social forces shaping offending patterns and official reactions to it.
Reading Summaries and In-Class Quizzes (100 points)
Reading Summaries: To reinforce important material from the lectures, enhance your comprehension, and gauge attendance, I utilize in-class, open note pop quizzes on the lecture and I randomly collect your brief (3-5 sentence) daily summary of the assigned reading(s).
Uniform Crime Report Project (100 points)
To gain familiarity with the primary source of official crime statistics used by law enforcement and other government officials, academics, journalists, and others, you will use these statistics to write a crime report on your hometown that identifies the nature and extent of the crime problem. You will use a comparative perspective to contextualize the crime problem, meaning you’ll compare your town’s most current crime statistics to past statistics or to the crime stats of comparable, neighboring towns.
Debate Outline (75 points)
To sharpen your research expertise, organizational abilities, and presentation skills and to remain informed about current issues in criminology, each member of the class will participate in a loosely structured debate on one of several topics chosen by the class. Prior to the debate, each individual will submit an outline detailing your position and evidence, with citations, to support your stance.
Crime Theory Paper Assignment (100 points)
To build critical thinking skills, you will analyze your own criminal (or conforming) behavior using a crime theory learned in class. This paper requires you to evaluate criminological theories and apply abstract theoretical concepts to your personal experiences (or to someone you know well). This exercise will better your understanding of why people might commit crime, why some people are more likely than others to offend, and how changes in life circumstances are related to entry or exit from crime. Hopefully, this exercise will also help you analyze and understand your own behavior as well.