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Criminology and Socio-Legal Research

Course overview

(MSc) Master of Science
Criminology and Socio-Legal Research
University of Essex
University of Essex
Colchester Campus
Full-time or part-time
MSC L30812

A degree with an overall 2:1, or international equivalent, in a social science, humanities, statistics or maths. Your degree must also include at least two quantitative or research methods modules (this can also include the research project/dissertation).

Applications from students with a 2:2 or equivalent or a non-social sciences degree will be considered dependent on any relevant professional or voluntary experience, previous modules studied and/or personal statement.

IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 6.0

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.

External Examiners

Prof Jacqui Gabb
The Open University
Professor of Sociology and Intimacy

External Examiners provide an independent overview of our courses, offering their expertise and help towards our continual improvement of course content, teaching, learning, and assessment. External Examiners are normally academics from other higher education institutions, but may be from the industry, business or the profession as appropriate for the course. They comment on how well courses align with national standards, and on how well the teaching, learning and assessment methods allow students to develop and demonstrate the relevant knowledge and skills needed to achieve their awards. External Examiners who are responsible for awards are key members of Boards of Examiners. These boards make decisions about student progression within their course and about whether students can receive their final award.

eNROL, the module enrolment system, is now open until Monday 21 October 2019 8:59AM, for students wishing to make changes to their module options.


Core You must take this module You must pass this module. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options You can choose which module to study
Compulsory You must take this module There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.
Compulsory with Options You can choose which module to study
Optional You can choose which module to study

Year 1 - 2019/20

Exit Award Status
Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Credits PG Diploma PG Certificate
01 SC981-7-FY Dissertation Core 60 Optional
02 LW513-7-AT Legal Research and the English Legal System Core 20 Compulsory Optional
03 LW349-7-SP Contemporary Issues in Criminal Justice: Law, Policy and Practice Core 20 Compulsory Compulsory
04 SC905-7-AU Sociological Research Design Compulsory 20 Compulsory Optional
05 SC555-7-AU Formative Debates in Criminology Compulsory 20 Compulsory Optional
06 SC504-7-AU or SC520-7-SP Optional 20 Optional Optional
07 SC655-7-SP or Level 7 Sociology option from list Optional 20 Optional Optional

Exit awards

A module is given one of the following statuses: 'core' – meaning it must be taken and passed; 'compulsory' – meaning it must be taken; or 'optional' – meaning that students can choose the module from a designated list. The rules of assessment may allow for limited condonement of fails in 'compulsory' or 'optional' modules, but 'core' modules cannot be failed. The status of the module may be different in any exit awards which are available for the course. Exam Boards will consider students' eligibility for an exit award if they fail the main award or do not complete their studies.

Programme aims

To provide students with a systematic understanding of the diverse range of current debates in criminology and legal theory.

To provide students with advanced knowledge of key theoretical approaches in criminology and legal theory.

To provide students with a critical awareness of the problems of, and responses to, crime and criminality within cultural, economic, social and political contexts.

To provide students with an advanced understanding of the character of criminological and socio-legal research processes.

To provide students with the necessary skills to undertake criminological and socio-legal research.

To establish a critical understanding of the integration of theory, concepts, data, and analysis.

To train students in the design and conduct of original research.

To provide students with the knowledge and skills to enable them to proceed to further independent, self-directed learning.

To enable students to enhance their intellectual skills in preparation for further academic and/or professional work.

Learning outcomes and learning, teaching and assessment methods

On successful completion of the programme a graduate should demonstrate knowledge and skills as follows:

A: Knowledge and understanding

A1 Advanced knowledge of debates and theories in criminology
A2 Advanced knowledge of major legal theories and debates
A3 A systematic awareness of the the latest criminological theory
A4 A systematic awareness of the latest legal theory and jurisprudence
A5 An ability to critically evaluate research and scholarship in criminology and socio-legal studies
A6 An ability to identify and access legal research data bases and legal materials.
A7 An advanced knowledge of principles of social reasearch design.
A8 An advanced knoweldge of principles of legal research design
A9 A critical understanding of the relationships between theory and empirical reseach
A10 An appreciation of the centrality of research questions to social and socio-legal enquiry.
A11 An ability to locate criminological and legal theory in broader academic debates
A12 A practical understanding of how to address the ethical and political dimentions of research.
A13 An understanding of the significance of competing epistemological and ontological positions in criminology and legal studies
A14 The developent of knowledge through independent and original research
Learning Methods: The course provides four core taught 20-credit modules: LW513: Researching with Legal Materials; LW514: Approaches to Legal Theory; SC905: Sociological Research Design; SC655: Current Controversies in Criminology and Criminal Justice Policy, and a core dissertation.

In addition, students will choose an extra reasearch methods module in the Department of Sociology from a list of four options (SC504: Quantitative Data Analysis: from Univariate to Multivariate Methods; SC523: Texts and Documents; SC523: Ethnography: SC520: Interviewing and Qualitative data analysis) and will have one free option choice from a range of options in Sociology and other departments in order to pursue their own specific interests in the field.

Students with no prior knowlegde in criminology will howover, be strongly recommend to take SC55: Formative Debates in Criminology.

Both the law and Sociology departments use a range of lectures and seminars to present material, ideas, data and arguments in a clear and structured manner using examples, mapping the field and the contours of current debates.

Students will debate and discuss current issues and controversies each seminar, some of which will require student input in the form of presentations and assignments.

The programme also places strong emphasis on developing students' theoretical understanding of broader criminological and legal theory through the LW514 and SC655, both of which provide advanced awareness of the latest thinking in criminology and legal theory.

Student learning will also take place through the work they do preparing essays and assignments, and in their final year dissertation.
Assessment Methods: Outcomes A1 to A13 are assessed through coursework, which includes oral presentations and essays.

In addition, the assessed work for all MSc students includes a dissertation, which specifically assesses A14.

B: Intellectual and cognitive skills

B1 An advanced ability to search, summarise and critically review literature in the areas of legal theory
B2 An advanced ability to search, summarise and critically review literature in criminology
B3 A critical ability to comparatively review competing theories and explanations.
B4 An ability to construct original criminological and legal arguments
B5 A practical capability to formulate researchable questions
B6 An advanced ability to interpret, evaluate and analyse empirical evidence
Learning Methods: Students will enhance their intellectual skills primarily through the work they do for their taught modules, where seiminars will provide a means for teachers to demonste these skills through example.

Preparation for classes involves reading, interpretation and evaluation of criminological and legal texts, and the collection and analysis of empirical data in order to hone methodological skills.

Class tutors provide feedback on all student work through comment and discussion.
In addition, tutors also engage students outside the classroom during office hours, appointments, and by email.

Similarly the preparation of essays and other assignments also develops the listed intellectual skills.

Students are provided with feedback on all assessed work which is crucial to their intellectual development.

Their dissertations are used to demonstrate self direction and originality in tackling and solving research problems whilst also acting to advance their capacity for self-directed knowledge and understanding.

Additionally, students, along with PhD students and staff, are encouraged to attend the two-day annual residential Graduate Conference, which is held in February off-campus.

Addressing a different topical theme each year, it provides a stimulating forum for intellectual debate and discussion.
Assessment Methods: Outcomes B1, B2 and B3 are judged and evaluated by student essays in SC655 and LW514-.

B1 and B4 are assessed through both practical skills based assignments (in SC905) and essays.

B5 and B6 will be evaluated in SC906 and the dissertation.

Indeed, all five outcomes will be assessed once more in the dissertation.

Demonstration of advanced intellectual skills is a key criterion in awarding distinctions for essays and dissertations.

C: Practical skills

C1 An advanced ability to retrieve relevant library & online sources using the library and online searches
C2 A practicle ability to use legal databases
C3 A practical ability to summarise, evaluate and review legal theory literature
C4 A practical ability to summarise, evaluate and review criminological literature
C5 A comprehensive understanding of the principles of research design and an understanding of the merits of different methods
C6 An ability to choose and apply an appropriate method of research
C7 A capacity for self-direction in the planning and execution of a piece of research.
C8 An ability to make judgements about the best use of time and data in meeting their research objectives.
C9 An ability to plan, conduct and present a medium scale piece of research
Learning Methods: In SC905 students learn to conduct literature searches and reviews, and to work on various aspects of social research processes, typically found in a research proposal.

Throughout the degree practical skills are developed through preparation for classes, preparing essays and other assessed assignments, and in giving presentations.

Students receive detailed feedback on all their coursework and presentations.

LW513 will provide training in the use of legal databases (C2).

Moreover, the dissertation is particularly valuable in developing students practical research skills.
Assessment Methods: C1, C5 and C6 are specifically assessed in assignments for SC905, but they also form part of the assessment of almost every piece of assessed module essays.

C3 and C4 are addressed in LW514 and SC655 respectively.

While all the modules assess an understanding of C5 through to C9, the full range of these skills is assessed in the marking of the dissertation.

D: Key skills

D1 An advanced ability in presenting ideas and evidence to others orally, in a clear and concise manner and an advanced ability to present ideas and evidence to others clearly and concisely in writing.
D2 An ability to collect and present materials using information technology
D3 A good self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems
D4 A good self-direction and originality in tackling and solving theorietical and research problems.
D5 An essential understanding of how to plan, set appropriate time scale and assess feasibility of projects; a keen awareness of the need to reflect on their own work and respond constructively to the comments of others
Learning Methods: Key skills are taught and learned throughout the course through a range of strategies, such as requiring students to give oral presentations, through giving them specific assignments such as carrying bibliographic and web searches, through writing assignments and essays, and through class discussion and class and essay preparation.

Issues of dissemination are discussed in SC905.
Students learn to manage their own research projects through the support and advice of supervisors.

They are given feedback on all their coursework and on their dissertation research and are encouraged to reflect on their own work and improve on it.

Students also have the opportunity to develop skills in working in groups through their participation in the classes for every module.
Assessment Methods: Key skills are assessed throughout the degree through continuous assessed coursework.

Oral communication skills (D1) and IT skills (D3) are specifically assessed on SC905, and written skills and constructive response (D6) are asessed by coursework and the dissertation.

The dissertation is an overall assessment of communication, research management, and problem solving skills.


The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

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Should you have any questions about programme specifications, please contact Course Records, Quality and Academic Development; email: