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In Module Four, you learned about crimetrends and how to establish patterns topredict future behavior. In Module Five, youwill take a look at some of the majorcriminological theories that explain whypeople commit crime. These theories are animportant aspect of the research process, andthey will ultimately guide you in yourdecision-making process.

There are many published assumptions thatoffer an explanation behind a person’smotivation to commit crime. A few of themost prevalent criminological theories used bycriminal justice professionals today are listedbelow.

  • Rational choice theory offers theexplanation that people commit crimerationally after weighing their options.For example, after their options areweighed, they make the choice that thereward of the criminal act is worth therisk of punishment.
  • Labeling theory takes a differentapproach by explaining that people aremore likely to be influenced by theclassifications of society. For example,someone convicted for breaking into carswould be labeled a criminal and thuswould be predisposed to commit thesame offense again. Whereas if anoffender is arrested but not convicted ofthe crime, they may be less likely tocommit the same type of crime.
  • Deterrence theory assumes that peoplein society have some semblance ofrationality and are actively aware of theconsequences of their actions. Forexample, when an offender commits acrime, he or she expects certain rewardsfrom the incident. If crime is to bereduced, the punishment must be moresignificant than the potential reward forcommitting the crime.

Deductive and inductive reasoning are alsoimportant to the field of criminal justice, asthey go hand in hand with qualitative andquantitative research methods. Deductivereasoning starts with a premise which youbelieve to be the truth. You then figure outother principles that would have to be truebased on your foundational premise. Inductivereasoning is quite the opposite, in that you arepresented with some data first. After the datais presented, you begin to draw generalconclusions on facts that can be taken fromthat data. You figure out which criminologicaltheory or theories you could apply to thedata.

In deductive reasoning, you will frequently seequantitative research design, whereas withinductive reasoning you will see qualitativeresearch design.