What is Criminology?

9/18/2012 DK 0 Comments

By Joseph Dixon

Criminology is a fascinating and very important field of study, but it is often not very well understood. What exactly do criminologists do?
At its essence, criminology aims to answer a series of very important questions: What makes people become criminals? Is it all their choice, or do other environmental factors come into play? How can criminals be successfully re-admitted into our society?

While many who aspire to criminology are thinking of exciting jobs they see on TV shows such as Criminal Minds, CSI and others. And while there are certainly some work in these areas, they do not make up the majority.
Criminology is a very interdisciplinary field which is most closely related to sociology, but also involves other fields such as criminal justice, psychology, law and even biology and hard science in some cases.
What exactly does criminology mean? According to West's Encyclopedia of American Law, criminology is "the scientific study of the causation, correction, and prevention of crime."

Criminology dates back to the 18th century, and it has evolved significantly over time as our understanding of criminal behavior has changed.
Today, the major approaches are sociological, and in some cases criminology is even considered to be a sub-discipline of sociology at a university.
In the 20th century, there have come to be two major approaches to criminology, the social-structural and the social process approach.
The former basically is saying that the environment of a person and socio-cultural conditions are what cause criminal behavior.
On the other hand, the social-process approach says something else entirely. Since people who are exposed to the exact same environment and social processes don't all become criminals or stay law-abiding, then there must be something else at play. Proponents of this approach say instead that criminal behavior is something that you learn, and they explore how this process works.
In addition to the sociological aspect, there are numerous other fields that play a role in criminology. For example, psychological factors play a major factor. And biology is also an important contributor.
So how exactly does one study criminology? There are a number of methodologies, and since it is such a varied field, the research methods are also quite diverse. Since criminology is at its essence a scientific study of crime, the majority of the research is done using quantitative methods.
For this, the scholar measures an independent variable and its relationship to crime. It's important to understand that the dependent variable, crime, is actually one of two different things: either criminality or crime rate. The former is the level of crime by some societal group while the latter means a geographical distinction of crime, such as in the levels in a major metropolitan area.
Within a quantitative framework, researchers use a variety of data collection methods, including surveys, experiments, research over time, and more.
But quantitative research is not the only part of criminology, and qualitative methods also make up a bulk of the scholarship. These involve things like interviewing of criminals and former criminals, detailed case studies and small group meetings.
Crime certainly isn't going anywhere anytime soon, so criminology will remain an exciting and vital field, and if you are fascinated by human behavior and protecting the good of society, you might want to give it a closer look.
For much more on criminology careers, including degrees needed for criminology, check out our website at!

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