In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Criminology

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks, Handbooks, and Edited Volumes
  • Data Sources
  • Journals
  • Demographic Characteristics and Crime
  • The Consequences of Crime and Punishment

Sociology Criminology
Sara Wakefield
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 July 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0010


Criminology is a broad subfield drawing from a number of academic disciplines. Beyond its historically strong ties to sociology, criminology draws from scholars in psychology, economics, law, and political science, among others, and large, interdisciplinary criminology departments have grown more common in recent decades. This review is confined to criminology as practiced within sociology; interested readers, however, should be aware that the study of crime cuts across several disciplines. Sociological criminology encompasses a broad range of topics and includes an emphasis on the causes of crime as well as social reactions to crime. This module provides an introduction to the field and includes (a) a description of the main textbooks, handbooks, and edited volumes suitable for teaching a course in criminology at the graduate and undergraduate levels; (b) a description of common sources of crime and criminal justice data; (c) a description of the top publishing outlets in criminology; (d) a sampling of introductory materials on the relationship between demographic characteristics (age, race, class, and gender) and crime; and (e) an overview of the main theories of crime causation. While criminology also includes a number of topical subareas (e.g., adolescence and delinquency, gang involvement, substance use, sentencing and corrections, and so on), the theories included here are common to most introductory criminology texts.

Textbooks, Handbooks, and Edited Volumes

There are a wide variety of sources for students beginning their study of criminology, as well as for scholars broadening their interests to include criminology; the following resources are both widely read and high quality. For scholars, researchers, and graduate students, Crime and Justice: A Review of Research and the Annual Review of Law and Social Science provide expert-level literature reviews of topics in criminology, law, and corrections. The essays describe the current state of knowledge of a topic as well as commentary on methodological challenges and directions for future research. Several well-regarded readers assemble the most widely cited classic and contemporary research in criminology; among the best are Crime: Readings (Crutchfield, et al. 2007), a reader emphasizing widely cited empirical work in criminology and criminological theory; Criminological Theory, Past to Present: Essential Readings (Cullen and Agnew 2006), a reader focused on historical and contemporary core criminological theories; Crime and Public Policy (Wilson and Petersilia 2011), a reader emphasizing research results in criminology and their public policy implications; and Taking Stock: The Status of Criminological Theory (Cullen, et al. 2006), a series of reviews on the empirical status of criminological theories. Finally, Criminology: The Core (Siegel 2008) is a well-regarded textbook, suitable for introductory undergraduate courses.

  • Annual Review of Law and Social Science. 2005–. Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews.

    The Annual Review of Law and Social Science, published annually since 2005, includes expert reviews of research in criminology and law. This volume is more broadly defined than Crime and Justice and includes extensive discussions of law and psychology and law, as well as essays on issues of interest to the core of criminology. Suitable for scholars of psychology and law, as well as graduate students.

  • Crime and Justice: A Review of Research. 1980–. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

    A volume published annually that includes essays by experts on topics of interest in criminology, law, and the criminal justice system. The reviews include reviews of prior research, descriptions of the state of knowledge on a particular topic, evaluations of methodological rigor in existing research, and commentary on future directions. Suitable for scholars and graduate students (and, perhaps, advanced undergraduates).

  • Crutchfield, Robert D., Charis Kubrin, George S. Bridges, and Joseph G. Weis, eds. 2007. Crime: Readings. 3d ed. Crime and Society. Los Angeles: SAGE.

    A collection of the most cited and important studies published in contemporary criminology, last updated in 2007. The reader offers heavily edited versions of classic empirical studies in criminology as well as essays on criminological theory, definitions of crime and deviance, and debates on the measurement of crime. Suitable for advanced undergraduates.

  • Cullen, Francis T. and Robert Agnew. 2006. Criminological theory, past to present: Essential readings. 3d ed. Los Angeles: Roxbury.

    A comprehensive reader of classic essays in criminological theory. Beginning with the “fathers of criminology,” Beccaria and Lombroso, and ending with an expanded discussion of integrated theories of crime, this reader is suitable for an undergraduate course focused on criminological theory.

  • Cullen, Francis, John Wright, and Christie Blevins, eds. 2006. Taking stock: The status of criminological theory. Advances in Criminological Theory 15. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

    This volume offers commentary on the empirical status of major theories of crime causation. Often, the most well-known proponents of a theory wrote the essays on that theory (some have criticized the volume, claiming these proponents provide expert but less than objective reviews). The essays assess the performance of each theory in empirical research, weakness, and future directions for research. Suitable for graduate students.

  • Siegel, Larry J. 2008. Criminology: The core. 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

    A highly regarded undergraduate-level criminology textbook. Includes descriptions of core criminological theories and measurement of crime and highlights topical issues and debates in criminology. Suitable for introductory undergraduate courses.

  • Wilson, James Q., and Joan Petersilia, eds. 2011. Crime and public policy. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

    The latest edited volume by Wilson and Petersilia, two highly regarded criminologists with strong reputations in public policy arenas. The volume includes commentary by expert criminologists on a sampling of topics (e.g., families and crime, street gangs, and gun control), with particular emphasis on the public policy implications of research findings in the area. Suitable for graduate students.

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