CRIM 103: Psychological Explanations of Criminal and Deviant Behaviour


If you need help, please Ask A Librarian.

Background information

Online reference sources

Online references sources provide basic information and context for your research topic. They are a useful place to start when looking for biographical information and introductions to Criminological theories.

These are just a few of many reference sources. For more suggestions, please view the Background Information tab of the Criminology Research Guide, or the Psychology Research Guide.


TIP: There are a number of encyclopedias at SFU Library (print and online) with biographical entries on criminals, but unfortunately their table of contents are sometimes not indexed by the catalogue. So, a library keyword search for your topic may not reveal everything available. To find these "hidden" encyclopedia entries, you will need to search by the more general terms such as criminals encyclopedias (or similar combinations) and then manually check to see if an encyclopedia has the entry you are looking for.


In the sources above, look for topics such as: 

  • Aggression: Psychological Theories
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder
  • Motives for Murder
  • Psychological Theories of Criminal Behavior
  • Psychosocial Risk Factors for Violent Behavior
  • Violent Behavior: Psychological Theories

Finding books 

You can search the library catalogue to find books on your topic. 

Use Browse Search for a more classic, catalogue-like search experience.

Once you find a book that meets your needs, take a look at the subject heading links in the catalogue record. These links will list other books on the same topic. Below are some example subject headings that may be of use in your research.

Books on specific criminals

The library has purchased a number of (mostly non-academic) books on specific criminals that are usually covered on your assignment. These can be useful for certain aspects of your research, for instance, biographical details. Notably, while there may not be a whole book about your assigned criminal, you may find a book chapter within a broader-themed book that treats your criminal in detail.

Finding journal articles 

What is a scholarly (or peer-reviewed) journal?

Articles in academic journals are a valuable source of information. We suggest some Criminology databases below; see also other Criminology databases, or browse the alphabetical list of all databases.

Search tips:

  • Too many results? Narrow your search using the word 'and'. A search for "dental records" and murder will bring back only articles that match both of those keywords, for example.
  • Not enough results? Combine your search terms using the word 'or' to bring back articles with either term. This technique is good for searching synonyms. Place your synonyms, separated by the word 'or', in-between brackets to avoid getting irrelevant results. Example: "serial murder" and (child or children or youth or teenager)
  • Use quotation marks to find an exact phrase like "multiple personality disorder" or "Henry Lee Lucas".
  • Try searching for name variants of your criminal's name
  • As you search, modify your search terms and look for interesting keywords in article titles and abstracts you read. 
Keep in mind that it may be difficult to find academic-level psychological analysis of a particular criminal, especially for much older or newer cases. None may have been written. You may need to generalize your searches to similar crimes/criminals or psychological conditions.

Suggested databases

Criminal Justice Abstracts
Covers crime trends, crime prevention and deterrence, juvenile delinquency, juvenile justice, police, courts, punishment and sentencing.

PsycINFO is the core database for research in Psychology, providing article citations for thousands of journals.

DSM-V: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The standard diagnostic tool used by psychiatrists.


Unique Sources for Crim 103

Public Libraries such as Burnaby Public Library and Vancouver Public Library often have large collections of biography and true crime books on infamous criminal offenders. Keep in mind most of these sources are not considered academic. Nevertheless, these may be the only source of biographical information available. Public library collections are often in high demand, so be sure to look early and place holds if necessary. You can request books from other libraries via interlibrary loan. It's also worth checking if Google Books provides full or partial access to a book you are looking for.

Websites: be particularly careful using information found on online. The topic of true crime generates a great deal of biased or unedited and low-quality content. For more information, see Internet research: Finding and evaluating resources. Wikipedia's References section may be particular useful for tracking down non-scholarly information for this assignment.

Oxford Bibliographies Online Lists core readings on a wide range of criminological theories and topics, such as Institutional Anomie Theory, Social Control Theory and Mental Health and Crime.

Graduate theses and dissertations may contain uniquely in-depth information on your criminal. You can search the theses of thousands of universities, including SFU, using the database, Dissertations and Theses Abstracts and Index. Be sure to check out the bibliography for ideas on further resources.

Finding newspaper articles

Newspaper articles can be an excellent source for factual, background information. Newspaper articles may also provide important coverage of court proceedings and criminal sentences not necessarily available in case law. 

For more sources, see the Library guide to News resources.

For further article search tips, see the library's How to find journal articles guide, or view our list of online tutorials and drop-in classes.

Suggested journals