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Researching current issues in criminology

This module provides you with a unique opportunity to undertake an independent research-based 7000-word dissertation. It'll equip you with the knowledge, skills and tools to investigate a criminological issue of your choice using a secondary research approach. Underpinned by the module themes of legitimacy, denial and accountability, this module showcases diverse meanings, issues and settings of criminological research. You’ll be guided through each stage of your research process and be encouraged to reimagine current understandings and responses to crime, harm and injustice.

What you will study

Block 1 focuses on rethinking criminological knowledge and preparing you to become a criminological researcher. You'll examine the historical, social and political roots of criminology as a social science. This will involve critically reflecting on criminological pasts, and you’ll be encouraged to identify gaps, absences and silences in your study of criminology that can spark your own research ideas and strengthen your critical writing skills. You’ll also be introduced to some critical interventions that seek to ‘think otherwise’ in criminology. This includes critical criminology, green criminology, Black, Indigenous and minority criminologies, postcolonial and decolonial challenges to criminology. You’ll work with the key module themes of legitimacy and denial. These themes illuminate how what counts as criminological research is embedded in a dynamic struggle over how social problems are defined, understood and responded to. This highlights the potential of criminology to affirm and challenge the legitimacy of crime control measures and expose harms that the powerful seek to deny. Throughout this block, you will also be developing your critical thinking and writing skills, and developing early ideas about your potential dissertation topic.

In Block 2 you'll examine examples of how criminological research has shaped, and been shaped by, mechanisms available to respond to crime. You’ll focus on developing and strengthening your skills in planning your dissertation. This will involve reviewing existing literature and translating your research ideas into a research proposal. You'll be taken on a journey through some values and practices that overlap with the criminal justice process: protection and safety, rupture and repair, confinement, and healing and recovery. The key module theme in this block is accountability, and you will explore the extent to which available mechanisms enable or dissuade people, researchers, organisations and states to take responsibility for their decisions and actions. You’ll explore case studies and examples of responses to crime, injustice and harm, including police investigations, legal prosecutions, problem-solving courts, civil law, settlement agreements, truth and reconciliation commissions, and non-state alternatives. Throughout this block, you'll be invited to think critically about the capacity for criminological research in rethinking and reimagining current responses to crime, harm and injustice.

In Blocks 3-5, the topics that you encountered in the first two blocks take a step back to allow you more time and space to focus on putting your research skills into practice. You will start to select and work with your sources and write up your dissertation.

Block 3 supports you to gather sources of evidence on your chosen topic. You'll be aided in making decisions about identifying, selecting and accessing suitable data sources, critically evaluating your data sources, and reflecting on their relevance to your research question. This is complemented with guidance on using your tutor’s feedback, project planning, time management and problem-solving skills, which are all essential to navigate your research process.

Block 4 focuses on data analysis and presentation skills, two important areas of skills for all criminological researchers. You’ll explore and try out suitable data analysis methods to make sense of your sources of evidence, produce initial findings and construct evidence-based arguments. This will involve an exploration of your own voice and identity as a researcher by preparing to share your progress with others. You'll have opportunities to practice and tell the story of your research process so far. This will culminate in a presentation of your research in a slide deck alongside either a written script or audio recording.

Block 5 rounds off your dissertation journey and your role in producing criminological knowledge. You’ll be introduced to key techniques in writing up extended pieces of independent research and reflect on the possible contributions that your research can make. This includes shaping public opinion, practice and policy, strengthening campaigns and working with affected groups. You’ll also explore your potential to make a contribution to criminology and pursue further learning and research in the future. Your learning materials will focus on keeping you motivated and on track as you write up your dissertation. You’ll review the requirements and structure of a dissertation as well as writing and editing skills. This will culminate in an opportunity to get feedback on a section of your dissertation.

You will then have eight weeks of dedicated independent study time to consolidate your findings and arguments and write up your dissertation.

You may find some topics and case studies in this module challenging. If you know that engaging with some topics and case studies in criminology is likely to be distressing for you, then please think carefully before enrolling on this module.

Entry requirements

This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on the skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at OU levels 1 and 2. You should have completed Social research: crime, justice and society (DD215) prior to studying DD315 to ensure you have the appropriate social sciences research methods skills and knowledge.

To successfully study this module, you should also:

  • be prepared to undertake a substantial piece of independent academic writing (7,000 words)
  • possess an understanding of research methods
  • be a competent computer user, including internet use and Office 365
  • have a strong command of reading and writing in English.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

Thinking about research areas that have sparked your criminological imagination prior to enrolling on the module will be beneficial.

What's included

You’ll be provided with a printed module book and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • module specific forums
  • audio and video content
  • assessment guide
  • tutorial access.

Computing requirements

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 Monterey 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.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

Throughout your module studies, you’ll get help and support from your assigned module tutor. They’ll help you by:

  • marking your assignments (TMAs) and providing detailed feedback for you to improve
  • guiding you to additional learning resources
  • providing individual guidance, whether that’s for general study skills or specific module content and dissertation support
  • facilitating online discussions between your fellow students, in tutorials and in the dedicated forums

Module tutors also run online tutorials throughout the module. Where possible, recordings of online tutorials will be made available to students. While these tutorials won’t be compulsory for you to complete the module, you’re strongly encouraged to take part. If you want to participate, you’ll likely to need a headset with a microphone.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying DD315 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

Future availability

Researching current issues in criminology starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2034.

Course work includes:

4 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment