Nathaniel Brazil Case Study Analysis

Most professors grading criminology theory papers expect excellent performance on at least two aspects of writing: (1) a DESCRIPTION of a behavior that has been observed in real life, and (2) a criminological EXPLANATION of the behavior (with both parts equally balanced). Although Part II is titled in the sample that follows, do NOT include this in your papers. Let the document flow smoothly without headings or subheadings unless instructed otherwise. Below is what one would consider an excellent criminological analysis for a first-time effort. Adhere to the exact wording in the sample of any phrases in boldface, and apply the rest of the sentence fragments with your own writing (suggestions are italicized in parentheses).

TITLE (center your title here in capital letters)
[see guide to title construction]

The behavior under consideration in this paper is ….. (larceny, drugs, vandalism; choose from list of dependent variables in syllabus) [Keep the first paragraph short. Use short sentences. Try to sound impersonal. Speak in third person. Avoid use of I-statements.]This behavior may be manifested in a number of ways by a variety of individuals for a number of different reasons.[Although this establishes the generality of your subject matter, it is not so unique as to preclude generalization. such as “Since the dawn of time, criminologists have pondered over how to explain… However, if you have selected a highly unusual behavior, you might have to qualify the phrase to “While highly unusual, this behavior may be conducted for a variety of reasons.]While technically defined as a crime by state or federal statutes, …..[Of course, if the behavior is not a crime, you would say “While not technically….]the behavior in question is also regarded as deviant, norm-violating, and immoral.[Here, you have established that the behavior is worthy of criminological, sociological, and philosophical study.]It is the purpose of this paper to first describe the behavior using a particular individual as a case study, and then, to explain the behavior using a criminological theory.[The first part of this is called a “thesis” statement. You are telling the reader what your purpose is. What you are also doing is adding organization to your paper, telling the reader what you will address first and then second. These are called “preview” statements, and they usually end the introductory paragraph. Of course, it would be best if you could also tell the reader which criminological theory you are going to use, as in “…Cohen’s strain theory in criminology”… instead of “..criminological theory….”, but this requires knowing how your paper is going to end, hence you should construct an outline.]
Larceny(fill in your selected behavior)…..[by this time, you are referring to it by name instead of “the behavior” because you intend to get examine specific behaviors in this paragraph]was committed on the night of October 31 around 11:00 PM at the HartnessStudentCenter on the campus of NC Wesleyan College. (or whenever and wherever the behavior was observed based on your reviews of the case) by (use name), a 24-year old white male who is a Justice major at NC Wesleyan.(use actual demographics). [Note how specific you are about time, place, and person. This is preferred, but a general trend or chain of events is also acceptable.]The facts of the case are that (provide as much details as possible based on your reviews of the case)it was Halloween night, and Billy Bob Cartwright (name) approached Prof. O’Connor to borrow some money under the pretense of contributing for pizza. Billy Bob then proceeded to use the money in purchasing some really rotten eggs from a group of students, returned to the Hartness building, and threw the eggs at Prof. O’Connor from an undetectable angle. [Note how specific you are being about a particular situation, a singular behavioral episode.] No police report was filed. (Replace No with A if, in fact, a police report was filed, and whom the complainant was.)
Characteristics of the offender include…..[Here, you want to tell the reader a little about Billy Bob Cartwright, perhaps his key variables]… young adulthood (a ), being from a rural, working-class background, having a deficient grade point average, and belonging to the Protestant faith. [All the key variables are here.] From conversations with the offender, who is known from to….(Of course, you do not know the offender, reword this to second-hand acquaintance or whatever.)[This is how you mention information about the subject. Note how impersonal it is, and justify your broader generalizations on the basis of a method of observation]…he gave the impression of being…(a hard-working adult, sensitive about his intellectual abilities, anything you want to add here which helps you build your case) [Next, you need to determine if there was a precipitating event.]It is entirely possible that the offender targeted Prof. O’Connor precisely because of an F received on a midterm earlier that week, but it is also possible that Billy perceived Prof. O’Connor as being too uptight for studying on Halloween night and was playing a prank. [You are beginning to raise “possibilities”; hypotheses or hunches that prepare the reader for whatever criminological theory you are going to apply.]
Background information of the offender includes…..[This paragraph is optional. Use it only if you plan on explaining the behavior with a process theory, one that requires knowing long-term background information, like psychological, learning, or labeling. Others, like strain, control, and conflict only require foreground information or known characteristics. A one-sentence statement about relevant background should suffice, and it can even be added onto the last paragraph for brevity.]…..a history of rebelliousness to authority figures.(or whatever fits your theory.) This behavior is typical of….(again, whatever fits your theory, but try to come up with another behavior for comparison to sound balanced)…..but is less serious than….(another behavior that might be typical of this person).
Cohen’s strain theory[or any theory, as long as you identify it by name] appears to lend itself well as… (or “appears to be well-suited as”, or “appears to be adequate as”, or “seems to be applicable as”, or “is relevant as”)…an explanation of this behavior.[The strongest type of acceptable language is “a theory that fits the facts of this case would be….”] Other theories, such as[mention the limitations of other, extant theories, at least one other] are designed to explain[name some alternate behavior] and offer only the concepts of[name some alternative concepts]. The causal factors, according to this theory, are status frustration and reaction formation.[Here, you should list 2-3 concepts of a parsimonious theory. You may refer to them, as the main or primary” factors if you do not know which ones are causal. Treat each one in a separate paragraph.]Cohen’s theory was devised to explain…(or any theory; indicate here that you understand the place of this theory in the evolution of criminological thought) malicious, negativistic, and nonutilitarian behavior that is done just for the “fun” of it.
Status frustration (or your first variable) refers to (define the concept using the textbook or your lecture notes)an injured sense of self-worth on account of holding a devalued position in society. Reaction formation (or your second variable) is defined as unconciously doing the opposite of what one really wants. [Give elaborate definitions of more complex concepts. Demonstrate that you know what they really mean.]With Billy Bob Cartwright(or your subject), it was observed that he felt… a deep sense of inferiority and sensitivity about his lack of intellectual abilities. [Refer the reader back to one of your observations, and start applying the theory.]This can be interpreted as status frustrationoverthe belief that being a student in today’s society is a devalued position. (Or whatever applies)[Try to end each paragraph sounding definite, but do not sound too definite. It is appropriate to say, “This can be interpreted as” and even “This is an example of”, but do not say, “This is simply a of”]
In combination with the more sociological (or psychological depending upon which is which) variable, status frustration, ….. [Discuss your variables, what theoretical significance they have, whether they are observable or not. Remember, you are trying to generalize to a wider population of people who may experience the same thing. Do not try to analyze what is inside Billy Bob’s head.] the other factor, reaction formation, also pressures Billy Bob to do things not in his best interests. [Note the word “pressures” which is appropriate here since strain theories are deterministic. If it had been a control theory, which assumes free will, the sentence should have read “allows Billy Bob to choose things not in his best interests”]It is likely that Billy Bob wants to do wellin school, and one could even speculate he unconsciously wants to become an intellectual snob like Prof. O’Connor(Note how you are “speculating” about unconcious motivations because you never know about the unconcious, and I’m not an intellectual snob, by the way). This would explain why his rebellion toward authority becomes particularly devious around people who could help him the most in his career goals. [It is appropriate to speculate when you have to, especially since you cannot observe anyone’s unconscious desires. It is also relevant to this theory since Cohen borrowed the idea of reaction formation from Freud, but you may want to include ideas from other theories, such as “self-handicapping,” etc.]With such a combination of strong (or strong and weak, depending upon your assessment of the variables) factors at work in determining this behavior, one would estimate that at least 80-90%(or 60-70%, or whatever estimate of power you think this theory would generate if tested quantitatively) of the time, it would reappear given the same or similar conditions.[You are required in this assignment to derive an estimate of the strength of the theory and its reliability. There are more appropriate ways to express this in words instead of numbers, but you have to understand the language of criminologists. Note the sentence does not indicate that Billy Bob is a hopeless recidivist or career criminal. Avoid language such as this.]
Strain (or another theory) approaches, in general, were devised to explain rebellious, negativistic, utilitarian behavior [Demonstrate again that you know something about the theory, what type of crime, for example, the theory specializes in explaining. Begin approaching the key assumptions.] and analysis of this one case has revealed some utility for a strain(or another theory) explanation. [This is a “concluding” statement.] Although this one particular case involved…. (or revealed, or shed light on… try to address counterexamples, or issues you did not focus on because of space limitations, etc.)two deviant behaviors, larceny of the pizza money and assault with the smelly eggs, it was decided to focus upon the larceny (or other behavior) because it is more typically the kind of offense someone under the influence of strain (or other theory) would do.[Try to remain focused although you know the offender may engage in other activities.]Strain approaches (or other theory) also have an affinity with the anomie (or other, refer to materials on Perspectives, Approaches, and Theories) perspective [Avoid language such as “falls under” or “belongs to”. The classification scheme is there to help individuals who study criminology. It was created by those who study criminology, not the theorists themselves.] which assumes moral consensus (or whatever the perspective assumes; refer to your online materials and lecture notes) among all members of society. The subject in this case probably knew he was engaging in the wrongful behavior, yet felt compelled (or decided if you use a classical theory) to engage in activities which were nonutilitarian, or not in his best interests (or in his best interests).(Follow the perspective to its logical conclusions.) Hopefully, this adaptation to strain(or decision as the case may be) is not permanent, (End with a note of optimism.) and it should be remembered that this is only a case study,(Show some modesty by knowing the limitations of your research method.), not a test of the theory. and that further research is necessary before more general conclusions can be made or the results used for policy formulation. (This is the standard conclusion of a scholarly paper.)


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