Criminology students at Lancaster, as elsewhere, do not expect quantitative ideas to play a role in their undergraduate degree. Many have poor mathematical skills and have difficulty with the interpretation of data in numerical form. In parallel with this, the Economic and Social Research Council has recognised that many social science undergraduates are not exposed to mathematics and statistics in their degree courses, and this will lead to a lack of quantitative social science researchers for the future. The Council are thus funding the development of innovative undergraduate courses to tackle this problem.
This paper describes the characteristics of an innovative course in criminology “Measuring Crime” which introduces second-year students to basic concepts of numeracy, graphics and reading and understanding tables, as well as the various sources of crime data and their similarities and contradictions. It introduces students to the idea of crime data as quantitative information rather than case studies or interviews. It encourages students to plot data and to understand and question the source of commonly voiced research statements. Statistical concepts such as trend lines are also introduced quietly through graphics. Although a shock for many students, the course is in general well received.