Assignment information
• Assessment details: 2,500 word Essay
(100%)
• 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
words?)
• Don’t define theories in too much detail. If you
apply them well, you will demonstrate
understanding
• 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
deviance;
2. Compare and contrast the
contributions of different
theories to understanding
crime;
3. Apply this understanding
to the study of
contemporary criminal
justice issues, institutions
or practices.
1/15/21 © The University of Sheffield
Learning
objectives:
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
deviance.’
• 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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