Theoretical Summary Worksheet: Techniques of Neutralization
Directions: Using the readings assigned (ASJ Chapter 6 Part 1 (second half of section) and CAW Chapter 13), answer the questions below using word-for-word citations from the textbook including page numbers where the citation can be found. Statements in your own words should be limited to introducing a quote, providing context to it, linking it back to the main premise of the theory, etc. For citations, you may use “ASJ” as an abbreviation for the Akers, Sellers, and Jennings text or “CAW” for the Cullen, Agnew, and Wilcox text. Include any and all relevant answers for each question as you will use these summary worksheets as essentially a cheat sheet for everything you need to know about each theory. However, you must include at minimum 20 complete statements that provide important information for understanding the theory. A complete statement can be one very complex sentence or several sentences but requires some depth/explanation so small sentences will not suffice. Please use numbered responses (starting at #1 and going to #20) so that I can quickly assess what you intended to count as a single statement submission. You do NOT have to have an answer in each section—only those sections that are clearly answered by the theory—and you can have as many statements for a single section as necessary to fully portray the theory.
A. What is the context surrounding how/why this theory was first proposed? Was there a particular social, political, or historical context of the time that might help us understand why the theory proposed what it is does to explain crime at that time? Many of the readings do not include this info so skip when it’s missing.
B. What is the basic question(s) the theory is attempting to answer? NOTE: This cannot be “why people commit crime” but rather a more complex question that is specific to the theory and differentiates it from other theories. Many of the readings do not include this info so skip when it’s missing.
C. What ideological assumptions about human nature, motives/drives, etc. does the theory rest upon? Does it make assumptions about an innate drive to commit crime versus an innately good, non-criminal nature? Does it assume things like rationality, biological predisposition, behavior being learned, etc.? Most theories rest upon some assumptions so you will likely have at least one statement here for many of the theories.
D. What are the basic propositions the theory makes in attempting to explain law making, law enforcing, and/or law breaking? You do not have to answer each—just those sections that clearly apply depending on which type of theory is being summarized. With the exception of some of the conflict theories we will be studying towards the end of the semester, almost all of our theories focus on explaining law breaking so you will have much more information in Part C and probably almost nothing in Parts A and B.
a. Explanations of law making (i.e., legislation, political policy, etc.):
b. Explanations of law enforcing (i.e., practices by police & the CJ system):
c. Explanations of law breaking (i.e., criminal and delinquent behavior):
E. What key concepts/terms/definitions are central to understanding the theory and its explanations of law making, law breaking, and/pr law enforcing? Define each key concept and provide enough context for why each concept is so critical in understanding the theory.
F. Given the concepts above and what the theory proposes, how can the theory be empirically evaluated using scientific methods? When clearly indicated, provide answers to the two following questions. Though not always clearly indicated by the original theorists, discussions of research that has been done to test each theory may provide you insight into how to answer these questions. Just be sure to keep your responses to broader tests of the full theory—not just some of the smaller components and/or tangents some of the research reported alludes to.
a. Methodology (i.e., experiments, content analysis, observations, etc.) might be utilized to test the premise of the theory? Provide instruction on how such a methodology could be used to test the theory.
b. Measurable concepts/variables to be included in analyses: What concepts need to be included to test the theory and how would each concept be empirically measured? This response should include specific variables to be included in statistical analyses testing the theory but NOT the additional control variables of race, class, gender, etc. that most every study includes. Be sure to clearly include how each variable should be measured (i.e., operationalized).
G. Given the research reviewed—particularly in the Akers, Sellers, and Jennings text—is the theory supported by empirical research? Note: there are often contradictory findings presented to clearly lay out what findings support the theory and/or parts of the theory and what findings refute/fail to support the theory. Focus on broader tests of the theory—again, not too much on small components of it or tangentially related concepts—and be sure to differentiate research that indicates support versus that which does not. Include citations of the original researchers who conducted each empirical test of the theory.
a. Research findings supporting the theory (i.e., statistically significant findings that indicate support even if correlations may be weak):
b. Research findings refuting/discrediting the theory (i.e., failure to find statistical significance):
H. What additions, modifications, or other changes have been made to the theory by other theorists given findings of their research testing the original theory? This is usually addressed towards the end of the readings when they discuss how theorists have since used the original work to expand and further the theory. For example, Merton’s original anomie theory forms the foundation of Institutional Anomie, General Strain, and others so you would introduce those others here and how they expand/modify on Merton’s original work.
I. What implications for criminal justice policies/programs/practices does the theory provide?
a. Policy implications (i.e., laws, legislation, legal code, etc.):
b. Programming implications (i.e., community programs, government initiative programs, school programming, etc.):
c. Practices such as policing, correctional, etc. implications (i.e., implications for how to improve the way police, corrections, or courts do their jobs):
J. Include here other key information needed to understand the theory but not clearly fitting into any of the above sections. However, this is not a “catch all” for all your statements just because you don’t know where they belong above. Statements that clearly fit in a section above should be placed there and will not earn full credit if put here.