What are the Different Types of Criminology Research?

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Criminology attempts to analyze criminal acts as both an individual and societal phenomenon. Depending upon his area of professional interest, a criminologist may study blue collar crime, organized crime, corporate crime, political crime, or white collar crime. Juvenile delinquency, domestic violence, and vigilantism are also common topics of interest for people with criminology degrees.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Theories of criminology research can be broken into three general areas: social structure theories, individual theories, and symbolic interactionism theories. Within these areas, a criminal act is defined as behavior that either violates a governmental law or an accepted societal belief. This is sometimes referred to as a consensus view of crime.

Social structure theories of criminology research tend to attribute crime to problems within a society. They often link an increase in crime rates to an increase in poverty and the accompanying community deterioration. Strain theory, or social class theory, is a social structure theory that states crime happens when unequal access to opportunities such as higher education and jobs that pay a living wage prevents people from reaching the American Dream of prosperity through legitimate means.

Individual theories essentially attribute the cause of crime to individual deficiencies. Social bond or social control theory, one common example of individual theories of criminology research, states that people commit crimes when they fail to develop belief in the moral validity of rules, commitment to achievement, strong attachment to others, and involvement in conventional activities. Individual theories of criminology research do not claim there is a gene for criminal behavior, but they do investigate the link between brutalization or witnessing criminal acts as a child and subsequent deviant acts. In this way, individual theories hope to explain how criminal behavior tends to continue within families from generation to generation.

Symbolic interactionism theories of criminology research suggest the cause of crime lies in the complex relationship between more powerful and less powerful groups within society. In the area of juvenile delinquency, for example, youngsters labeled as troublemakers by teachers, counselors, and other people in positions of authority have been found to act out at higher rates. Essentially, they turn their label into a self-fulfilling prophesy.

As an interdisciplinary branch of the behavioral sciences, criminology research incorporates elements of theoretical perspectives such as psychoanalysis, Marxism, systems theory, and postmodernism. The classic nature vs. nurture debate is also an important component of study within the field. Although it's difficult to draw definitive conclusions as to the exact cause of crime, criminology research is valuable in that it can help to shape public policies that work towards developing a more lawful society.

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders

Dana holds a B.A. in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She has loved being part of the wiseGEEK team ever since discovering the joys of freelance writing after her son was born. Dana also hones her writing skills by contributing articles to various blogs, as well as creating sales copy and content for e-courses.

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Discussion Comments


Suppose you attribute your criminal acts to your culture and beliefs. For example, the rastas smoke weed and as a result engage in criminal acts out of the influence of the weed.

The cattle rustlers of East Africa do so as a cultural necessity. They maim and kill, all in the name of culture.


Cafe41-I know what you mean, but sometimes people’s characters not weak and they are not able to overcome it.

I personally would like to see a criminology research proposal on people who overcame a bad childhood that was crime filled. This would actually be motivational and maybe could be shared with imamates in prisons so that they can turn their life around.

I wanted to add that Blackwell Reference Online is an online database that offers data on various subjects in the legal and criminal justice field. This is usually where criminology students seek introduction research.


Cupcake15-You make an interesting point. I would say that most criminological research seems to want to paint the perpetrator as a victim.

They always talking about the lack of family structure and cohesiveness as well as the poor upbringing that they received.

While I agree that these are major obstacles in life, one has got to want something better for them. There is really no easy way to make money. You really have to work hard whether you go to college or start a business you have to decide if you are willing to work hard.

Clearly some people see things differently that is why they steal instead of earning money themselves.


Sneakers41-Some research methods might include ways to disprove this theory that according to one’s socio economic levels the poorer you are the higher likihood you will have to commit a crime because of the necessity you face.

I would want to disprove this theory with the study of people that did not see criminal behavior as a means to an end.

In fact, you can argue that there are a lot of wealthy people that also fall victim to crime, so clearly the there are other reasons and perhaps more criminological research in criminology should focus on why certain people follow this deviant behavior.


Criminal justice and criminology research methods are often used with criminology research papers.

Often doctoral school candidates in criminology develop various research methods in criminology. They develop a criminology research topic that may include determining the validity of the social theory argument with respect to propensity to seek criminal behavior.

This is a common criminology research paper topic.

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