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Unit information: Critical Skills for Social Scientists: Criminology in 2017/18

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Unit name Critical Skills for Social Scientists: Criminology
Unit code SPOL10028
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Sweeting
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit will introduce students to key study and research skills relevant to their discipline and will provide a foundation to the 2nd year Social Research Methods unit. The first part of the unit will provide students with essential study skills in critical thinking, reading, and writing. It will introduce them to the Harvard referencing system and strategies for plagiarism avoidance. The second part of the unit will introduce students to criminological research methods. Set in the context of relevant political and theoretical debates, the unit will explore the uses of data and research in criminology and examine how data shapes understandings of criminological problems. It will also introduce students to different approaches (e.g. quantitative, qualitative), research design and sampling, methods of data collection (e.g. interviews, surveys), methods of analysis (e.g. statistical analyses, thematic analysis), and the particular ethical issues relevant to their discipline. Specifically, the unit will:

  • Support students in their transition from school/college to university through the development of key study skills
  • Provide students with introductory knowledge and skills relating to criminological research

Intended learning outcomes

Students who successfully complete this unit will be able to:

  1. demonstrate the critical thinking, reading and writing skills required for higher education
  2. understand political and theoretical debates informing criminological research
  3. reflect on the uses of research in criminology and how it can shape understandings of criminological problems
  4. identify the range of approaches, methods, forms of analysis used in criminological research
  5. reflect on the ethical issues raised in the undertaking criminological research.

Teaching details

Lectures (20 hours) and Seminars (10 hours) plus 1 reading week and 1 revision week.

Assessment Details

In order to meet the intended learning outcomes of the unit, students will undertake the following:

Formative assessment: Group presentation (pass or fail).

Summative assessment: a portfolio (overall pass or fail) based on the following individual components:

  1. Teaching Block 1 Study Planning document (10%)
  2. Commentary on academic article/chapter (500 words) (10%)
  3. On-line referencing quiz/academic integrity quiz (10%)
  4. Commentary on non-academic article (500 words) (10%)
  5. Reflection on essay preparation (250 words) (10%)
  6. Essay (2000 words) (50%).

Reading and References

Caulfield, L. (2014) Criminological Research for Beginners: A Student's Guide, London: Sage

Cottrell, S. (2013) The Study Skills Handbook (Palgrave Study Skills), London: Palgrave

Davies, P., Francis, P., and Jupp, V. (2011, 2nd ed) Doing Criminological Research, London: Sage

King, R. and Wincup, E. (2000) Doing Research on Crime and Justice, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Walters, R. (2003) Deviant knowledge: criminology, politics and policy, Cullompton: Willan

Wincup, E. (2004) Criminological Research: understanding qualitative methods, London:Sage