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CRMJ 353 (2)
Lecture 3

CRMJ 353 Lecture 3: Day 3 Notes

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Criminal Justice
CRMJ 353
Michelle Manasse

9/6 What is Theory?: Constructing and Evaluating Theory ● A theory is a statement about the relationship between two or more events or variables ● Theories are imperfect- they won’t explain every crime, but theories are a tool to understand larger trends in crime and why a behavior occurs ○ Theories provide us with a mechanism to describe the process by which crime occurs ○ The mechanism is the difference between the “what” and the “how” ● Micro vs. Macro Theory ○ There are two big types of questions that we ask about crime: Why do some individuals commit criminal acts, but others do not? (This question focuses specifically on differences between individuals- this question will be answered by micro theories); Why are there variations in group rates of crime? (This question focuses on differences across groups- this question will be answered by macro theories) ● Evaluating Theory- How do we know if a theory is good or not? ○ First and foremost, the worst criteria when deciding if a theory is good or not is how well it fits our preconceived notions about the world (tldr; do not allow personal experience or bias to influence your evaluation of theory) ○ If criminological theories are to be scientific, then must be judged using scientific criteria: ■ Logical Consistency- clearly defined concepts and propositions that are logically stated and internally consistent ■ Scope- refers to the range of behavior that the theory can explain (a theory that is overly specific is not as useful) ■ Parsimony- refers to the simplicity and conciseness of the theory (scope and parsimony are evaluated together!) ■ Testability- a theory must be testable by
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