One Crime that Can Be Used to Explain Multiple Crime Theories

Sociology 472 – Criminological Theory Paper 1


Theoretical Perspectives:

Deterrence Rational Choice

Routine Activities/Environmental Biological/Biosocial Psychological


Objective: Gain a deeper understanding of the theories covered in the first part of the course by using the theories to analyze a crime.


Step 1: Choose an actual crime for which you can provide a brief description of both the facts of the case and people involved. Briefly describe the who, what, when, and where of the crime, i.e., the known facts and people involved.


Step 2: According to each of the above theoretical perspectives, why did this crime take place? (To answer this question, you will want to briefly state the main argument(s) of each perspective and then relate it to the crime. For example, deterrence theory argues that people are self-interested and the only way to keep them from committing crime is through the threat of punishment that is certain, severe, and swift. According to deterrence theory, this crime took place because . . . )

-For each theoretical perspective:

  • Does the theoretical perspective do a good or not so good job explaining your crime? Why?
  • Do you believe the perspective offers a good explanation of criminal behavior (or human behavior) more generally? Why? [are there things the theoretical perspective can explain, cannot explain, does not consider, ?]


Step 3: Which perspective do you think offers the best explanation of the crime you have chosen to analyze in your paper? Why? If you do not think any of the theoretical perspectives offers a good explanation of the crime, explain why you think this.

-Whether you think there is a best explanation or not, you should consider:

o What do these theoretical perspectives have in common, and are there differences between these perspectives or theories within these perspectives in their explanations of crime?

o Possible points of comparison: Micro, mezzo, macro, process, structure, tautology, scope, empirically falsifiable.



IMPORTANT note on organizing your paper: Since this is a writing-intensive course, I would like you to organize the paper with an introduction, body, and conclusion – with headings and subheadings. Here is an example and explanation.





In one or more paragraphs state what the paper is about and what you accomplish in the paper. Communicate to the reader that you are analyzing why a crime occurred according to the above listed theoretical perspectives in criminology and assessing their ability to explain the crime and crime more generally. In the introduction, you should list the theoretical perspectives you will consider and state your conclusion.




In this section you describe the crime and the people involved.





Include a brief paragraph stating that you will analyze why the crime occurred according to deterrence theory, rational choice theory, routine activities theory, biological/biosocial theories, and psychological theories.


Deterrence Theory


Explanation of deterrence theory – application of deterrence theory to your crime, etc.


Rational Choice Theory


Explanation of rational choice theory – application of deterrence theory to your crime, etc. [continue with an italicized subheading for each of the theories/theoretical perspectives]




Briefly revisit what you have done in the body and then shift to a consideration of the theories as a whole, i.e., what they have in common and where they differ. Offer your assessment of their ability to explain your crime and crime more generally and whether you find a particular theoretical perspective better than others or whether you find them all lacking in explanatory power.

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