CJ511 - Nature of Crime

Course Ouline Course Modules Course Calendar Course Journals Course Webpages

Course Description

Examination of issues related to defining crime and criminals. Focus will be on various sociology and criminology theories that seek to broaden our understanding of deviant and/or criminal behavior. 

Course Requirements

Required Reading

Winfree, L.T. and Abadinsky, H. (2003). Understanding Crime: Theory and Practice, 2d ed. Belmont, CA:Thomson Wadsworth. ISBN: 0-534-55748-1

Reading Schedule

Most readings are found online at http://salsa.nmsu.edu. Click on "C.J. Online Resources" to enter this WebCT class and select the "Nature of Crime" option. Readings are arranged by module, in the order they should be read.

Click here for the links to each module. The web page for each module lists all relevant dates. There is a lot of reading required for this course. You are not expected to focus on every detail in every article. It is important that you not "miss the forest for the trees." Do all the reading, look for patterns and similarities. Then if you need specifics, go back to the reading for more details.


Online Journals: (20%)

Journals in this class will be posted online and students are expected to review the journals of other students. Students should plan to complete at least one journal submission per week. At the end of the course completed journals should document a range of thoughts about "The Nature of Crime." The best journals demonstrate an evolution of thought as we move through readings and other course experiences. Journals should refer to readings (in text, on reserve, and elsewhere), internet content, events in the news, and other topics of interest.

The format for these "blogs" is informal and may include comments about anything you have on your mind. Blogs can include links, graphics, and other web-based content. The grading criteria will include frequency of posts, evidence that the student is doing the reading and thinking about the material, and evidence of a progression of thought regarding the issues raised in this class. Grading will not be completed until the end of the class so that the entire journal can be reviewed.

Although you have several options, you may be using an advertiser supported service for these journals. These free services provide the features we need for the class, although we have to put up with advertisements. We are using something called "web logs" or "blogs" for our journals. Click the "Journals" link above for instructions. The "Journals" page will eventually include links to the online journal of each student in the class.

Essay Exams: (35%)

Four essay exams will be completed during the class. Exam questions will be sent to each student at the beginning of the week in which the essay is due. Essays should have sufficient breadth and depth to indicate more than a passing awareness of the issues raised in the questions. Grading will be determined based on the thoroughness of response and the ability to properly apply knowledge gained through reading the text. Essays should be "term paper quality." Pay attention to spelling, sentence and paragraph structure, organization, and citations. Your papers should use APA style, which is described in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th edition, 2001).

Questions typically contain multiple parts. This is not done to make questions more difficult. Multiple parts are recommended to provide guidance that will lead to a high quality answer. Remember to address each section but do not assume that the ideas raised in each section are the only issues to be addressed in your response.

Web Sites: (20%)

This is a group project. Each student will receive the same grade unless there is evidence, shared by all members of the group, about differing levels of participation from one or more group members. Each group will be assigned a topic (from a list determined by the class) for the final project. The final project should include a one or two page introduction or summary followed by an annotated list of internet links that will lead to further information on the topic. The list of links should be carefully edited to include high quality pages that are educational, well organized, and expected to remain on the internet for an extended period. Click here for an example of a final project. Click here for a guide that should be followed while formatting the assignment for submission.

Your projects will be published, with full acknowledgement of your efforts, at justicepolicy.com. This site, which is currently under development, will include links to justice related issues. With you permission, your sites will be included in a section devoted to law and society. When completing this assignment you are expected to comply with essay exam expectations regarding scope, depth, plagiarism, cites, writing quality, and organization.

Final web sites are due on or before the end of the day November 29. Late submissions will not be accepted. I am happy to review outlines, rough drafts, or any other preliminary work. More information about this assignment will be provided in the "Web Pages" section of this course outline.

Class Activities: (15%)

Five in-class activities will be completed throughout the semester. These activities will include worksheets, group activities, and other assignments. In general, these assignments will be designed so that each participant receives full credit. These activities will be completed on predetermined dates that are not known to students. These assignments are measures of attendance, participation, and knowledge.

Online Forum: (10%)

The online forum allows us the opportunity to discuss a range of issues. The forum is an online "bulletin board." Each of you may post questions, reactions to course content, comments about materials available on the Internet, responses to other questions or comments, or whatever you feel like sharing with others. The forum is especially helpful for those who want to share information found on the internet. Links to sites can be easily included in the forum.

This class includes a forum and blogs. Each student is expected to review the blogs of other students. The forum is the best place to engage in discussion about points raised in blogs. It may be helpful to think of communication tools as a continuum. For example:

----Face to face----online chat----online forum----blog----journal article----textbook----

The best example of synchronous communication is a face-to-face conversation. No time gaps are present. Chat rooms are similar, but without non-verbal cues. Online forums or bulletin boards allow quick two-way communication, but also provide an opportunity to reflect on things before offering a response. The forum also serves as a gathering spot with a collection of comments. Forum comments are offered with the expectation of some sort of response. In contrast, blogs typically represent something that is shared with others, but there is not necessarily an expectation of response. The blog doesn't include any sort of group organization structure so it is difficult to share comments. Journal articles are timely, relative to textbooks, but allow very little interact. Textbooks are the product of a long period of time and involve very little interaction.

I encourage you to think of this continuum since I know there can be confusion about the role of the forum and blogs. We will use the forum to comment on blogs, and anything else we wish to discuss. Grading will be based on frequency, relevance, and evidence that students are reflecting and commenting on the blogs of other students.

In addition to class discussion, the forum is the area in which I will send communications intended to be read by the entire class. Plan to visit the forum often.

Participation: (up to 10 points may be deducted)

Your experience, and the learning experience of your classmates and instructor, are greatly enhanced as the result of active participation. You are likely to have strong opinions about a number of the topics we will discuss. Let us hear what you think by speaking up in class, joining discussions, and posting comments in the bulletin board/discussion area. This course will be better if you talk more and I talk less. I prefer not to dominate the discussion so each of you will need to remain active throughout the semester. You all have interesting ideas and viewpoints and we learn more by sharing and trying to understand various views. 

Notice that the score for this item is a negative. As graduate students, a certain level of participation is assumed. That level of participation is expected and not included in the grade. Those that fail to reach that level will lose points.

Course Policies


Deadlines are not suggestions. All written material will rapidly lose points in the days following the due date. Zero points will be awarded for missed assignments.

Withdrawing from class

Class withdrawal is your responsibility. If you disappear, we will wonder where you are. However, we will not drop you from the class. Withdrawals should follow University procedure. The student is responsible for obtaining all necessary signatures on drop slips.


If you have or believe you have a disability, you may wish to self-identify.  You can do so by providing documentation to the Office for Services for Students with Disabilities, located at Garcia Annex (646-6840).  Appropriate accommodations may then be provided for you.

If you have a condition which may affect your ability to exit safely from the premises in an emergency or which may cause an emergency during class, you are encouraged to discuss this in confidence with the instructor and/or the director of Disabled Student Programs.  If you have general questions about the Americans With Disabilities ACT (ADA), call 646-3333.

Academic Misconduct

A very high price can be paid when you are caught cheating. Too high to risk. All written material must be your own composition. Appropriate credit must be given for sources used in developing your ideas and arguments. Provide appropriate citations. It is easy to see when large sections of text have been lifted from other Web pages. This is quite easy to verify as well.

It is not appropriate to submit work that was originally completed for another course.

Please refer to the Student Code of Conduct in the NMSU Student Catalog. Students should pay particular attention to the following section on academic misconduct taken from page 19 of the 1999-2000 Undergraduate Catalog. "Any student found guilty of academic misconduct shall be subject to disciplinary action. Academic misconduct includes, but is not limited to, the following actions:

1. cheating or knowingly assisting another student in committing an act of cheating or other forms of academic dishonesty;

2. plagiarism, which includes, but is not necessarily limited to, submitting examinations, themes, reports, drawing, laboratory notes, undocumented quotation, computer processed materials, or other materials as one’s own work when such work has been prepared by another person or copied from another person; 

3. unauthorized possession of examinations, reserve library materials or laboratory materials;

4. unauthorized changing of grades on an examination, in an instructor’s grade book, or on a grade report; or unauthorized access to computer records;

5. nondisclosure or misrepresentation in filling out applications or other university records in, or for, academic departments or colleges".

NOTE: The penalties for engaging in any of these acts of academic misconduct will be determined on a case-by-case basis, but will follow general university guidelines as to severity.

Classroom Climate

Classroom climate is not solely the Professor's responsibility. We encourage each of you to engage in conversation on any issue. The University is a place for free speech, limited through individual choice. These choices may be altered with awareness of the real or potential reaction of others. However, you should not be intimidated into keeping quiet. We do not condone racist, sexist, homophobic, or other hateful speech. You are all adults, capable of understanding generally accepted rules of conduct and modifying your behavior in an effort to comply with these social or legal expectations. You are responsible for your behavior.

Final Grades

Dr. Mentor does not post or discuss final grades after the conclusion of the course. If grades are made available online, be advised that if there is any error the grade you receive from the registrar is your official grade. Grade changes will be made only in cases of data or computation error. Please do not ask, beg, or otherwise attempt to change a properly computed grade.

Course Outline

This course outline is intended to define much of what will happen throughout this course. Changes are possible. Any changes will be clearly presented to the class and will often include class discussion. Changes will apply to all students enrolled in this course, without regard to whether they were involved in the discussion.




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Page last modified August 2003
Copyright 2003 - Kenneth W. Mentor, J.D., Ph.D.