Undergraduate Courses

Undergraduate Courses

100. (SOCI233) Criminology. (C) Society Sector. All classes.

This introductory course examines the multi-disciplinary science of law-making, law-breaking, and law-enforcing. It reviews theories and data predicting where, when, by whom and against whom crimes happen. It also addresses the prevention of different offense types by different kinds of offenders against different kinds of people. Police, courts, prisons, and other institutions are critically examined as both preventing and causing crime. This course meets the general distribution requirement.

200. (SOCI200) Criminal Justice. (C) Society Sector. All classes.

This course examines how the criminal justice system responds to crime in society. The course reviews the historical development of criminal justice agencies in the United States and Europe and the available scientific evidence on the effect these agencies have on controlling crime. The course places an emphasis on the functional creation of criminal justice agencies and the discretionary role decision-makers in these agencies have in deciding how to enforce criminal laws and whom to punish. Evidence on how society measures crime and the role that each major criminal justice agency plays in controlling crime is examined from the perspective of crime victims, police, prosecutors, jurors, judges, prison officials, probation officers, and parole board members. Using the model of social policy evaluation, the course asks students to consider how the results of criminal justice could be more effectively delivered to reduce the social and economic costs of crime.

240.  Forensic Analysis. (Criminology Elective)

This is a new course to be offered in Fall 2018. More details to follow. 

250. Statistics for the Social Sciences I. 

Statistical techniques and quantitative reasoning are essential tools for properly examining questions in the social sciences. This course introduces students to the concepts of probability, estimation, confidence intervals, and statistical inference. The course has an applied focus and will show students how to use the statistical concepts and methods to answer social science questions. The course will require the use of R, a free, open-source statistical analysis program. This course has been approved the quantitative data analysis requirement (QDA). 

251. Statistics for the Social Sciences II: Regression. 

In this course, students learn to conduct quantitative data analyses for social sciences with an emphasis on identifying causal relationships in data. Many social science analyses aim to answer causal questions: Do longer prison sentences reduce crime? Do tougher gun laws reduce homicides and suicides? Can summer jobs help keep youth safe? Students will learn about research designs and data analysis methods to answer these kinds of questions, and especially to learn to implement them in practice. The goal of this class is to help students conduct their own analyses, and to become critical readers of statistical analyses, both in social science publication and in the public discourse. The focus will be on what to compute and how to interpret the results. The emphasis is on the intelligent use of statistics. This is not a math course or a course in mathematical statistics. We will be using R, an open-source programming language. 

260. Crime and Human Development. (C).

One of the central research problems in criminology is the relationship between human development and the likelihood of committing a crime. This course will examine the tools for measuring the onset of crime, its persistence, intermittency, and desistance. These tools include the study of birth cohorts of everyone born in a certain time and place, life course studies of juvenile delinquents and nondelinquents, trajectory analysis of people studied from pre-school through middle age, and interviews with 70-year-old former delinquents who reflect on how their life-course affected the crimes they committed. This course will also examine the research findings that have been produced using these tools. Students will be asked to consider what these findings imply for major theories of crime causation as well as policies for crime prevention.


Is there a "natural-born killer"? Why don't psychopaths have a conscience? And is it morally wrong for us to punish those who are biologically-wired for a life of crime? This interdisciplinary biosocial course argues that answers to these inscrutable questions can be found in the fledgling field of "neurocriminology". This new sub-discipline brings together the social, clinical, and neurosciences to help us better understand, predict, and prevent future crime. We will explore the biosocial bases to crime and violence, analyze controversial neuroethical, legal and philosophical issues surrounding neurocriminology, and take a field trip to prison. This interdisciplinary course presents perspectives from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, criminology, sociology, law, business, public health, psychiatry, anthropology, neuroimaging, neuroendocrinology, forensics, nutrition, and pediatrics. It is suitable for those without a background in biology or criminology. It is particularly relevant for majors in Criminology, Psychology, Nursing, and Biological Basis of Behavior.

280. (SOCI380, URBS280) Neighborhood Dynamics of Crime. (B).

Crime varies in time, space and populations as it reflects ecological structures and the routine social interactions that occur in daily life. Concentrations of crime can be found among locations, with antisocial activities like assaults and theft occurring at higher rates because of the demographic make-up of people (e.g. adolescents) or conflicts (e.g. competing gangs), for reasons examined by ecological criminology. Variation in socio-demographic structures (age, education ratios, and the concentration of poverty) and the physical environment (housing segregation, the density of bars, street lighting) predicts variations between neighborhoods in the level of crime and disorder. Both ethnographic and quantitative research methods are used to explore the connections between the social and physical environment of areas and antisocial behavior.

300. Law and Criminal Justice. (C).

This course explores constitutional criminal procedure or the law of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Topics included the laws and rules associated with search and seizure, arrest, interrogation, the exclusionary rule, and deprivation of counsel. Social science evidence that supports or raises questions about legal doctrine will be examined. No prerequisites are required.

SM 410. (CRIM610, SOCI410) Research Seminar in Experiments in Crime and Justice. (A)

Prerequisite(s): Any statistics or research methods courses leading to familiarity with Excel, SPSS, R, Stata, SAS, Matlab, or NumPy. This seminar focuses on examining data from experiments in criminology including randomized controlled trials of criminal justice policies, "natural" experiments in crime, and other quasi-experimental studies. A series of experiments conducted by Penn scholars and elsewhere will be examined. This seminar also guides criminology majors in writing a research proposal for their thesis. Students will learn about how to formulate a research question, develop a review of the literature, and how to apply necessary empirical methods. The final paper for this course will be a research proposal that can serve as the basis for the student's senior thesis and to satisfy the senior capstone requirement. Readings will come from the disciplines of criminology, sociology, psychology, economics, and urban planning.