Not available in 2020/21
SO235      Half Unit
The Sociology of Homicide

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Janet Foster


This course is available on the BSc in Criminology, BSc in Social Policy and Sociology and BSc in Sociology. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit. This course is available with permission to General Course students.


Preferable, but not compulsory, that students should have taken SO210 Crime Deviance and Control – this is currently a full unit course.  Criminology students from Social Policy Department would be eligible in either year 2 or 3 but preferable again for them to take this course after they have taken SP270.

Course content

This half-unit course examines patterns of homicide in different contemporary societies with different social and political contexts (for example, Russia, Jamaica, USA, Colombia, South Africa, and Britain) and the explanations for their contrasting homicide incidence.   We explore the differences between fictional representations of murder and its actualities both in terms of type/prevalence, as well as investigative practices.  The importance of class, gender and race in patterns of homicide victimisation are explored, as well as the experiences of victims’ families and the significance of murder in contemporary society.


30 hours of workshops in the LT.

Course Outline

1. Introduction: What is homicide?  Definitions and the issues associated with them. Different types of homicide and global variations.  The issues and problems associated with researching homicide.

2. Sherlock Holmes and CSI:  The impact of crime fiction and the media in perceptions of homicide

3. Patterns of homicide: Using case studies from different countries and different social and political contexts (e.g. Russia, Jamaica, USA, Colombia, South Africa, and Britain) we explore different patterns of homicide and explanations for these patterns.

4. Gender and homicide: Exploring the public/private dimensions of homicide and differential risk

5. Race and homicide: Homicide disproportionately affects Black and minority ethnic victims yet this receives relatively little sociological attention.  We explore these patterns of homicide and the reasons for it.

6. Reading week

7. Investigating homicide: How do homicide investigations work? What are the issues associated with self-solver and ‘who-dunnit’ investigations? What issues affect the likelihood of perpetrators being caught?

8. Homicide perpetrators: Why do homicides occur and what do we know about perpetrators?

9. Living a life sentence: the experiences of murder victims’ families.

10. Presentations

11. Synthesis: The sociological significance of homicide

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the LT.

Students are expected to read, and prepare in advance, for each of the workshops.  Students must complete either a 1,500 word essay, or a poster, to be submitted in week 8, on one of the topics covered in weeks 2-5 of the course.

Indicative reading

Allsop, C. (2018) Cold Case Reviews: DNA, Detective Work and Unsolved Major Crimes Oxford: Oxford University Press

Brookman, F et al (2017) The Handbook of Homicide Chicester:Wiley

Brookman, F (2005) Understanding Homicide London: Sage

Innes, M (2003) Investigating Homicide Oxford: Oxford University Press

Leovy, J (2015) Ghettoside: investigating a homicide epidemic London: Random House

Pridemore, W (2005) ‘Social structure and homicide in post-Soviet Russia Social Science Research Vol. 34 (4) pp732-756

Morris, P and Graycar, A (2011) ‘Homicide through a different lens’ British Journal of Criminology Vol. 51 (5) pp823-838

Policing and Society (2013) Vol. 23, No. 3 Special Issue on homicide

UNODC (2013) Global Study on Homicide: Trends/Context/Data United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Wilson, D (2009) A History of British Serial Killing London: Sphere


Essay (80%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Presentation (20%) in the LT.

The essay length is between 2,500-3000 words.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Sociology

Total students 2019/20: 26

Average class size 2019/20: 26

Capped 2019/20: Yes (30)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills