How to write a Criminology Essay

University / Undergraduate
Modified: 13th May 2020
Wordcount: 1137 words

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Understanding the Question

Before you start anything else in relation to your criminology essay, you should first ensure that you understand what the essay question is asking. Successful criminology essays address the question throughout and demonstrate a structured answer to the specific question. There are key phrases to look out for which will enable you to understand how you should approach the construction of your answer. For example, if you have been asked to describe the concept of penal welfare, you are being asked to provide an outline or an account of the concept. However, if you are asked to criticise the concept of penal welfare, you are being asked to assess the concept’s strengths and weaknesses and to ultimately perform a value judgement. Criminology essays typically deal with a specific issue.

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Researching the Essay Question

Once you have deconstructed the essay question, you will hold an understanding of the subject areas in which you must direct your research efforts. There is a range of useful resources available to criminology students. In order to search for journal articles, the use of an online database will prove fruitful. Online databases particularly suited to criminology research include the Social Science Information Gateway (SSIG); the BUBL link catalogue of Internet resources; and the ISI Web of Knowledge. Statistics relating to crime and census data are a useful resource and can primarily be found via the UK Statistics Authority. Furthermore, the Home Office and the website of the UK Government contain much data that is useful to criminology students. For any specific articles or items, the British Library is also an excellent resource.

Planning Your Answer

Once you have read widely around the subject area it is time to begin refining your material and constructing your answer. There are several techniques available that will help you to do this. For example, visual approaches such as mind mapping can be useful. A good way to begin is to write the central concepts in the centre of the page, and then draw branches to specific criminological theories, concepts, and ideas that relate to the central themes. Seeing how the literature relates to the central question in this manner can enable you to develop a well-structured answer. Another useful method is to arrange the literature you have read into categories, and then identify how each category can be evaluated to relate to the central concept. This will ensure that your essay is focused and relates to the question posed. Formulate your thesis by including arguments that are rational. Usually, two or three arguments should be put forward, which should be supported by theory. Also, do not forget to include counter-arguments.

The Structure of the Essay

Regardless of the content of the criminology essay, the structure of the essay should always follow the same structure. This structure takes the form of Introduction, Main Body, and Conclusion.

The Introduction should set the scene or signpost the reader through the main body of the text. Moreover, the introduction should be written so that it is demonstrated precisely how the student intends to answer the essay question. This will include a brief description of what the essay question is asking, and an outline of the specific topics that are to be addressed to answer the question.

Following this, the main body of the text will follow the proposed structure as has been outlined in the introduction. Ensure that the arguments are presented in an orderly manner and follow a logical flow. Each paragraph should lead naturally to the next. This will ensure that a structured argument has been presented. It will also ensure that your essay is easy to read, which will be beneficial in terms of the mark awarded to it. Remember to be critical.

The conclusion should draw together the main threads of the arguments presented in the essay and offer a solution. Conclusions should only be made with regards to the information presented in the essay in relation to the essay question. Do not conclude or generalise beyond what you have provided evidence for. New arguments should not be introduced at this stage. If appropriate, provide suggestions for new measures that could be implemented.

Check for Plagiarism and Originality

It is vitally important that you cite and reference any source that you have used to construct your essay and inform your arguments. Failure to do so will result in an accusation of plagiarism, which is an automatic fail. Plagiarism is a very serious offence and repeated instances can result in a dismissal. The citations and reference section that you provide is your demonstration that you are providing credit for other peoples ideas where you have used them.

However, when constructing your answer, try not to reduce it to a flowing list of citations. Be sure to express original thought in your answer. Faculty staff are aware of the research findings on a given topic, particularly when they are teaching it. Make your essay interesting to the person marking it by adding your own opinion and original input. Just be sure to make it clear where you have entered your opinion, and when the argument you are using has come from a pre-existing source.


Be sure to cite every source you use in the text. This can be done in the following ways:

A theory can be named in the text (Author, date).

The Author (date) can be mentioned in the text.
‘a quote can be placed in quotation marks’ (Author, Date, Page Numbers).

Each citation will have the full source listed in the reference section. The references entries will generally follow the below formats:

For a book:
Author, Initials (Date). Title of Book. Place of Publishers: Publishers Name.

For a chapter in a book:
Author, Initials (Date). Title of Chapter. In Initial, Editor (Ed.) Title of Book. Place of Publishers: Publishers Name.

For a journal article:
Author, Initials (Date). Title of Article. Journal Title, Volume, page number – page number.

Other criminology sections:

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