SOCY 791: Criminological Sociology

Overview of a course taught by Dr. Mathieu Deflem at the University of South Carolina.


This course is a graduate-level seminar that discusses theoretical, methodological, and empirical developments in criminological sociology. This is a combined lecture and discussion/student-presentation course that is designed to introduce graduate students to some key theories, methodologies, and, along the way, a selection of substantive themes in criminological sociology. The course is aimed at stimulating students to contribute in meaningful ways to this sociological specialty at the highest level of academic rigor.

This course offers a review of the most important developments in the sociological study of crime and social control. Emphasis is on the distinct characteristics of various theoretical and methodological approaches in criminological sociology, their policy implications as well as some examples of empirical research in each of the discussed traditions. The course is designed to discuss a variety of perspectives and should enable sound thinking about crime as a social and a sociological issue. From a theoretical and methodological viewpoint, attention is especially devoted to the origins and developments of causal, interpretive, and critical perspectives. Substantive research topics covered include various forms of crime and/or deviance as well as major components of social control.


Discussing the most influential developments in sociological perspectives of crime and social control, the central issues of this course concern theory, policy, methodology, and research. This is not a topics course and we will not, at least not primarily or directly, deal with conditions of crime and social control in contemporary American society. However, we will devote attention to some criminological research applications and so indirectly to various aspects of crime and its control in our society. After reviewing the foundations of criminological sociology, three major intellectual traditions are discussed. We also analyze additional research books which will further contribute to our understanding of the course topics.


Students are expected to complete the following assignments:

1)  In-Class Presentations (20% of your grade)
Once during the semester you will prepare a detailed presentation on an issue discussed in the lectures. Basically, students will prepare a presentation surrounding some of the primary readings that accompany a particular perspective in criminological sociology.
2)  Mid-Term Paper (20% of your grade)
For the mid-term, you will have about a week time to address two or three questions about the course materials. These questions will in a relatively straightforward way measure your knowledge of the course materials.
3)  Final Research Paper (50% of your grade)
The final paper for this class is a research report about a topic of your choice in criminological sociology. The paper should follow the style and approach of an article published in a professional sociology journal. To complete the paper, I advise you to prepare the following materials successively: 
a)  Proposal: very brief explanation of your topic;
b)  Bibliography: relevant sociological writings;
c)  Outline: an overview of your entire argument;
d)  Paper: the actual analysis and report (about 20 pages).


The readings contains a set of theoretical papers and research articles and will be posted on Blackboard. Additional books will be selected as exemplary of the various discussed perspectives.

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