We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

What is Criminology?

The whole doc is available only for registered users

A limited time offer! Get a custom sample essay written according to your requirements urgent 3h delivery guaranteed

Order Now


Issues regarding crime, criminal justices, social justices, and others are innate concerns to any society in the world. The 19th and 20th centuries have been described as the violent centuries in the world history (Newburn, 2004). The two centuries have witnessed world wars, genocides, ethnic cleansing, money laundering, scams, and many other types of crimes. It is from the rise in these crimes in these centuries that there has been development of systematic study of crimes leading to emergence of field of criminology.  Therefore, criminology is a field of study that deals with issues focusing on crime. It looks into crime from different perspectives ranging from the causes of crime, prevention, social control, and punishment, treatment and rehabilitation of criminal offenders (Schmalleger, 2004). Criminology takes a multidisciplinary approach to the study of crime applying scientific principles in the process.

What is criminology?

The world criminology is derived from Latin word crimen which means “accusation” in English, and Greek word logia.  Criminology traces its origin to application in medico-legal science, psychiatry, nineteenth century social reforms, and other events. However, times and approach to criminology have changed over the years and the modern criminology incorporate systematic scientific inquiry into crime (Siegel, 2003). The word criminology was first used by Paul Topinard who was a French scientist. Topinard was studying types of criminals although Italian lawyer Rafele Garofalo is credited with having coined this term.

Different definitions have been developed to define the word criminology. In all these definitions, criminology is defined by specific facts like studying of crimes, understanding why individual commit crimes, effectiveness of methods of correction of criminals,  and reaction and relationship between the society and criminal offenders. Criminology is therefore a field of study that takes a scientific approach to study crime from individual perspective and as a social phenomenon (Schmalleger, 2004). Criminology does not involve all what is about catching offenders. It does not involve equipping individual with skills to nail down criminal offenders nor does it engage in profiling of offenders. It takes a complex approach to the study of crime but mainly concentrate on answering the question “why?”

In answering the question “why?” criminology must dig deep to understand crimes in all perspectives. As has been highlighted in above, the 20th century has been highlighted as the most violent century in history of the world taking its share of increased wars, ethnic cleaning, industrial disasters, serial killing, rape, torture, swindling, and many others.  It is not clear whether it only the most violent and harmful of the mentioned activities that attracted the attention of criminal justice system (Schmalleger, 2004).  In criminology, the issues has been asking the question why these activities happened  and compared their causative factors with what had  happened in previous centuries in order to build a body of knowledge of the changing nature of crime. For example in the recent past, there has been changing complexions of war time and increased corporate killing which in a way challenges our conventional thinking of nature of crime.  To address these issues, criminology takes a deeper understanding of historical and contemporary dynamics of crime (Siegel, 2003).

Criminology does not end with answering the question “why?” It goes further to formulate the most practical and coherent solutions to deal with criminals.  This means that criminology is not reserved for those fighting crimes alone but every member of the society must have basic knowledge in order to fight crime (Siegel, 2003). For example in the recent past, there have been increased campaigns for community policing. For the community members to embrace this concept, they need to have basic understanding of criminology and the benefits underlying community policing. Criminology has a broader outlook than four corners of a classroom.

In respect to crimes, criminology striven to explain why some acts are considered as crimes while  in one society while they may not be crimes in other societies. Criminology explains this variance in societies and cultures and why some crimes are universal in nature (Newburn, 2004). It may also seek to understand while there are varied punishment options available in different societies.

As a discipline, criminology is intertwined with other disciplines.  It draws heavily from other fields of study including sociology, history, geography, social policy, political science, and many others (Schmalleger, 2004).  This provides the ground for exploring different inter-related nature of society. A career in criminology will involved a study on behavioral sciences which are drawn from sociology, psychology, law, and others. A study of criminology will look into criminal law and constitution, abnormal psychology, sociological criminal theories, and other disciplines.   A conscience understanding of crime should not look at one perspective alone but should draw from different approaches to understand why some individual will commit crime while others do not.

The modern field of criminology is a product of two distinct works. The first one is government project.  In this respect, criminology can be understood in perspective of empirical studies in administration justice (Newburn, 2004). This involves working of prisons, police force, and also in measurement of crime.  Second, there is the Lomborosian project. In this respect, criminology developed from various studies that sought to look into the characteristics of criminals and grouping them in order to understand the cause of crime.

In view of Lamborosian project, criminologists therefore study the mind of a criminal person. As a study, criminology looks into various factors that influence criminals to act in the way they do and why they appear different from the rest of the law obeying citizens (Schmalleger, 2004). Criminologist are therefore likely to work with law enforcement agencies from national to local level  but their work involves profile crimes. Unlike law enforcers who are likely to specialize in prevention of crime, criminologists can assist law enforcement agencies as investigators.

There are three broad schools of thought that have led to development of criminology. The first one is the classical school of thought. This was developed in the 18th century and mainly assumed utilitarian philosophy (Siegel, 2003). There are a number of criminal theorist including Cesare Baccaria, Jeremy Bentham, and others who can be related to this school of thought. They argued that individuals have free will to commit crime, and advocated for deterrence and swift and severe punishment to fight crimes. The second school of though is the positivist school of thought which was developed by Lombroso in the 19th century. This school of thought postulate the criminal behaviors arise due to internal and external factors which are beyond individual control. This school of thought also introduced scientific method in study of crime (Newburn, 2004).  The latest school of thought is Chicago school which was developed in the 20th century. This theory was developed by Robert Ezra, Ernest Burgeess, and others. This school of thought identified the changing social structure and how this was contributing to crime most important studying juvenile delinquency and its relations to urban concentric zones. Therefore this school of thought adopts a social ecology approach in criminology. These three schools of thoughts have formed the foundation of criminology.

At the heart of criminology are criminal theories. Theories of crime are developed following the respective schools of thoughts as highlighted above.  As highlighted earlier, the Lamborosian project which forms the foundation of criminology was concerned with developed of theories that could explain why individual commit crimes (Schmalleger, 2004).  The project also looked into the most appropriate actions that can be used to punish criminals and deter others from committing acts of crime (McLennan et al., 1980). Theories of crime are classified into different categories including social structure theories like social disorganization, social ecology, strain theory, and sub cultural theory; individual theories like trait theories and control theories; and symbolic interactionism including rational choice theory, routine activity theory, and others. These theories have been developed following earlier theories developed from schools of though like classical theory, positivist theory, personal trait theory, and others (Newburn, 2004).


Issues regarding crime and the criminal justice process are pertinent to any society. Criminology is a complex field of study that looks into the issues of crime and the process trial and punishment of criminals. Criminology strives to answer the question “why?” looking into the reasons why individuals commit crime. Criminology also involves systematic scientific study into crime in relation to societies and the differences that exist. Criminology has been developed following three schools of though including classical school of thought, positivist, and Chicago school of thought. There are different theories to crimes which have been developed alongside the different school of thoughts which forms the base of criminology.


McLennan, G., Jennie, P., & Fitzgerald, F. (1980). Crime and Society: Readings in History and Theory. Routledge

Newburn, T. (2004). Criminology. Willan Publishing

Schmalleger, F. (2004). Criminology Today an integrative introduction. Person Publishers

Siegel, L. (2003). Criminology. Thomson-Wadsworth

Related Topics

We can write a custom essay

According to Your Specific Requirements

Order an essay
Materials Daily
100,000+ Subjects
2000+ Topics
Free Plagiarism
All Materials
are Cataloged Well

Sorry, but copying text is forbidden on this website. If you need this or any other sample, we can send it to you via email.

By clicking "SEND", you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We'll occasionally send you account related and promo emails.
Sorry, but only registered users have full access

How about getting this access

Your Answer Is Very Helpful For Us
Thank You A Lot!


Emma Taylor


Hi there!
Would you like to get such a paper?
How about getting a customized one?

Can't find What you were Looking for?

Get access to our huge, continuously updated knowledge base

The next update will be in:
14 : 59 : 59