Introduction to criminology
This module is an ideal introduction to one of the key areas of social sciences as it offers you an informed understanding of how criminal law is applied and its connection to social order/disorder, as well as criminal justice. On a week-by-week basis, you are introduced to different case studies encouraging you to think critically about the relationship between state, power and crime and the factors influencing the definition, contestation and deconstruction of crime in modern societies. Your studies are integrated with a range of skills that'll also provide a solid basis for progression to an OU level 2 module in this subject.
What you will study
Criminology is closely allied to other social sciences subject areas such as sociology, social policy, political science, geography, psychology and history as well as law, criminal justice and police studies. This module brings together a variety of approaches and understandings from many of these disciplines to develop what is termed as the criminological imagination. You'll explore the different definitions, understandings and ways of thinking about crime and justice in society and develop your own critically informed approach that questions the role and effectiveness of criminal justice in contemporary society.
This module is organised into four main blocks of study. The first block gives you an overview of the module and helps you to think about different ways of approaching the definition of ‘crime’. Through high profile case examples, you'll explore in detail the importance of considering the ‘power to define’ when it comes to how society sees perpetrators and victims of ‘crime’.
In Block 2 you'll look at how power, influence and social standing impact on how we decide if and when avoidable and premature deaths should be defined as a murder. You'll be asked to consider the backgrounds of both the victims and perpetrators, and consider why, when the actions of states result in many avoidable deaths, people only rarely use the language of crime to define such deaths.
Block 3 introduces you to some of the key foundations of the criminal justice system: the law, the police, the courts, prisons and resettlement services. However, rather than seeing them as static or neutral you will explore how the criminal justice system is dynamic and contested. This will allow you to start questioning whether the criminal justice system is able to deliver ‘justice’ for all.
The final block invites you to look again at many of the ideas and examples you have considered over the previous three blocks. Practical examples are provided to allow you to explore more deeply how the concepts of crime, power and the state influence understandings of crime and justice and how they can be ‘deconstructed’. You'll also be encouraged to use your criminological imagination to reimagine complex crime and justice problems and their potential solutions.
Due to the nature of exploring criminal harms and state violence, you may find a number of the topics discussed in this module difficult and challenging. If you feel that increased awareness of such issues will be unduly distressing, then please think carefully before enrolling for this module.
This is a key introductory OU level 1 module. OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning, to help you progress to modules at OU level 2.
This module is available for standalone study and is an ideal starting point if you are considering going on to study one of our qualifications. Its integrated teaching of key study and skills will give you a firm foundation for further study.
If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.
There is no requirement for you to undertake any specific preparatory work prior to starting this module. Our short criminology taster module An introduction to crime and criminology will give you a clearer idea of the content and focus of this module. It will help familiarise yourself with navigating the OU Criminology website.
You may benefit from reading the recent books of the investigative journalist Naomi Klein, who writes for a general audience and covers themes, such as social justice, environmental harms, the harms of brands and advertising, and social and economic inequalities, covered in this module.
You will also find very helpful short overviews of criminological ideas, such as those provided in The Sage Dictionary of Criminology (most recent edition is 2019, edited by Eugene McLaughlin and John Muncie, published by SAGE).
You’ll be provided with two printed module books, each covering two blocks of study and have access to a module website, which includes:
- a week-by-week study planner
- module materials
- audio and video content
- assessment guide
- online tutorials and forums.
You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS (11 'Big Sur' or higher).
Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.
To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).
Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.
Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.
It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.