Assignment information
• Assessment details: 2,500 word Essay
• Question: ‘Critically consider the extent to which one current criminal justice issue
can be explained by sociological theories of crime and deviance.‘

Choosing a topic
• Something you are interested in and feel confident writing about
• Something you can apply multiple theories to (2
or 3)
• Its fine to choose from the case studies or seminar discussion topic – and we expect most
of you to do so:
• Policing
• Protest and social movements
• Youth crime
The criminalisation of young black men
The criminalisation of young people in care
• Applying interactionism and one other theory
Ticket touts
• Criminal subcultures
Drill music
How to start your essay
• Read assessment handbook: Submission guidelines;
Referencing style; Plagiarism; Formatting requirements, etc.
• Take your time before you start writing:
• Go back over your notes, read widely, think, read some more;
talk to each other, use discussion boards to ask questions –
gain confidence
• Don’t expect to necessarily find the answers in
specific sources: you can apply your knowledge of theory to
this example. This demonstrates independent critical thinking,
which gets you good marks!
• Create a narrative / tell a story: practice
summarising it, either in writing or verbally
• Make a plan: structure your argument
• Make use of the last seminar which will be a
chance to discuss ideas
Building an argument (1)
• Think carefully about your introduction: outline
the argument that will follow
• Describe ‘the problem’ / case study, but be brief
as the marks are in the explanation (500-750
• Don’t define theories in too much detail. If you
apply them well, you will demonstrate
• Be analytical and critical: not only descriptive;
critical does not mean criticise
• Critical analysis = showing competing views,
considering the strength of those arguments,
expressing an evidence based view
Building an argument (2)
• Demonstrate competing ideas and use these to
offer critical analysis
• E.g. interactionism might help explain an
issue, but what are the criticisms or counter
arguments to interactionism, and what might
another theory draw attention to instead?
• Always use references to reinforce your
arguments and statements.
• Be confident in asserting your own conclusions
• Don’t overuse quotes: keep them as short as
they need to be to make the point in the most
concise way; we need to mark your own writing.
1. Describe and critically
analyse key sociological
theories of crime and
2. Compare and contrast the
contributions of different
theories to understanding
3. Apply this understanding
to the study of
contemporary criminal
justice issues, institutions
or practices.
1/15/21 © The University of Sheffield
Sources of evidence
• Draw on materials from different seminars,
including the extended reading lists
• Do some targeted searches for sources that
are specific to your focus
• It is likely to be appropriate to use nonacademic sources to understand and explain
your case study, but balance this with
academic sources
• An essay with only websites, newspaper
articles or social commentaries is unlikely to
score well
Seminar exercise
• ‘Critically consider the extent to which the
criminalization of drill music subculture can be
explained by sociological theories of crime and
• Consider how one or more of the following theories
might help explain the construction of this identity
as criminal or deviant:
• Subcultural theory (esp. Cohen)
• Folk Devils and Moral Panics
• Anomie
• In your seminar you will develop a possible essay
structure / outline.
• Be ready to offer a contribution in relation to at
least one of these theories.

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