Credit points


Campus offering

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Unit rationale, description and aim

To be effective in the field of Criminology, students will need to know, understand and be able to apply the fundamental concepts and theories of Criminology. These are necessary because they are the foundation stone upon which the understanding of criminal behaviour is founded. To start the students' learning journey, this unit Introduction to Criminology is concerned with developing the students' knowledge and understanding of the fundamental concepts and theories of the discipline of criminology. This will be further developed in other units alongside their development of skills to apply this understanding in practice.

The unit uses case studies to introduce students to these concepts and theories, and to paint a picture of crime and crime trends in Australia. This approach will help students to develop their knowledge and understanding in a way that links the concepts and theory to actual criminal activity. Through these case studies, students will engage with crime data, statistics and fundamentals of crime prevention. The unit is not therefore just an abstract theory unit, but a window into the minds and behaviours of criminals, and the ways these behaviours are discovered, predicted, portrayed, prevented and punished.

The aim of the unit is to equip students with the conceptual and theoretical lenses they will use to view all of the things they learn in the criminology program.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Describe fundamental concepts and theories of the discipline of criminology (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9).

LO2 - Explain how concepts and theories of criminology illuminate criminal behaviour (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9).

LO3 - Illustrate understanding of criminological concepts and theories through the consideration of case studies (GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9).

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • Introduction: fact and fiction in criminology and criminal justice.
  • How do we find out about crime? The role of media.
  • Media framing of crime.
  • Varieties of crime: definition and measurement.
  • Psychological explanations of crime.
  • Social explanations of crime.
  • Interactionist explanations of crime.
  • Institutional responses: criminal justice system and policy.
  • The role of the police.
  • The role of courts and corrections.
  • Prevention: law, policy and practice.
  • Victims: law, policy and practice.

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit comprises 150 hours of study in total. It will be taught over a 12 week semester, with one 2-hour lecture followed by a 1-hour tutorial each week. Other study components might include on-line webinars, podcasts, readings, discussion forums etc. The balance of the hours is comprised of self-directed study.

The teaching strategy is to encourage students to actively engage with unit content and their peers; to provide a clear link between lecture content and tutorial practicum to develop an authentic, case-based understanding (of principles and theory) that (in combination with learning from other units) bridges the gap between theory and practice. Thus, the learning and teaching strategy extends from within this unit, to integrate with other units in the course. Within an integrated learning framework, lectures will provide core content relating to the topics identified above and begin a process of active, engaged, exploration, which will be deepened by detailed explanation and further investigation in tutorials. Through direct interaction between students and teachers, students active, engaged exploration of the foundational knowledge they acquire supports its assimilation in the form of comprehension of concepts and theory. Students are then encouraged to test that evolving understanding by applying it to factual situations, to produce solutions supported by legal authorities and arguments; and to reflect on their learning. Each component is intended to build on knowledge, understanding and skills to progressively scaffold student learning.

The online learning platforms used in this unit provide multiple preparatory and practice opportunities to guide in-class and out-of-class study. Online learning assistance in the form of learning resources, notices, assessment information (including online submission, marking and return of results/feedback), is student focused, affording greater accessibility and flexibility to the learning experience. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

This unit is assessed by three assignments used deliberately as an integral part of the learning process to guide and scaffold learning, as well as to determine the achievement of learning outcomes. First, a basic content knowledge assessment (e.g. via a quiz) provides early feedback on knowledge acquisition. Second, a case-study based assessment that challenges students to explain how particular concepts and theories illuminate particular criminal behaviours illustrated by the case study. This is structured as a short-answer paper, with particular criminal behaviours the focus of each short answer. Third, an assessment requiring longer answers from students that extends the second assessment task. For example: based on three case-studies, students would be asked to (a) list the fundamental concepts and theory at play (b) explain how these explain/illuminate the criminal behaviour shown, and finally, to highlight the differences and similarities between the ways the concepts and theories apply across the three case studies.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Multiple choice online quiz: Requires students to demonstrate their knowledge of fundamental concepts and theories of the discipline of criminology



GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Case-study based short answer paper, focusing on understanding of particular criminal behaviours.


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Extended written comparison of three case studies.: This assessment requires students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of criminological theories and ideas, as manifested in authentic case-based scenarios.


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9 

Representative texts and references

Hayes and Prenzler, eds., An Introduction to Crime and Criminology, 5th edition, 2021.

Dalton, De Lint and Palmer, eds., Crime and Justice: A Guide to Criminology, 6th edition, 2020.

Mears and Cochran, Fundamentals of Criminological and Criminal Justice Inquiry: The Science and Art of Conducting, Evaluating, and Using Research, 2019. 

Graycar A & Grabosky P, The Cambridge handbook of Australian criminology, 2002.

Simpson M & Harrison J et al, Study Skills for Criminology, 2nd edition,2012.

Bernard T et al, Volds Theoretical Criminology, 8th edition, 2019.

Newburn T, Criminology, 3rd edition, 2017.

Newburn T, Key Readings in Criminology, 1st edition, 2009.

Joyce P, Criminology and Criminal Justice: A Study Guide, 2nd edition, 2018.

Tweksbury R, Miller J & Barnes J, Criminoligical Theory: A Brief Introduction, 2014. 

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