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Chapter 1

SOCI-225 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Criminology, Moral Panic

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Learning Objectives
Upon the completion of Chapter 1 you should be able to:
Define the term criminology.
Describe the different subject areas studied by criminologists.
Explain the role played by rules in our daily lives and how these rules can become formalized
in law.
Describe the different ways of defining crime (for example, going beyond the strict legal
definition of crime).
Explain how crime is socially defined and how peoples ideas about crime can change over
Describe how some acts get defined as criminal and others do not.
Explain the relationship between the public, media and crime.
Additional Reading: Dowler, K., Fleming, T., & Muzzatti, S. (2006). Constructing crime: Media, crime
and popular culture. Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 48, pp. 837850.
The following diagram, although a simplification, describes criminology as the study of how we
make laws, break laws, and our subsequent reactions to these broken laws.
A criminologist is defined as someone who studies the origins of crime; criminal behaviour; types of
crime; and social, cultural, and media reactions to crime. Criminologists use theory and scientific
methodology to test hypotheses.
In North America, and in many nations around the world, the prevailing definition of a crime is an
act that is punishable by law. However, as you can see from the diagram below, defining crime
may not be so simple. Defining crime depends on where you are in the world geographically and at
what point in time. That is, different areas at different times will have very different views on what
constitutes a criminal act (for example, in some nations attempting to “clean up the streets” have
passed laws and bylaws concerning the possession and use of chewing gum).
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