Learning Resources for Schools

Are you a Modern Studies pupil or a teacher of Modern Studies? Do you want to know more about the topic of Crime and the Law or Law and Order? If so, you’ve come to the right place!

This webpage has been created by SCCJR especially for Modern Studies learners. If you are studying National 5 or Higher Modern Studies, you will have the opportunity to carry out an assignment relating to the unit of Crime and the Law. For Advanced Higher, you will be conducting research to help you write your dissertation on a topic within the area of Law and Order.

The briefings you will find on this page reflect some of the most popular topics that previous learners have decided to write about in their assignments and dissertations. Therefore, these resources do not cover the entire Modern Studies curriculum, but are linked specifically to popular areas of research tied to the curriculum.

All the materials we have referenced come from trustworthy sources, such as academic research, government publications and other reputable institutions. For further guidance on carrying out your own research, and identifying credible and reliable sources, we strongly recommend you read SCCJR ‘Research methods and skills’.

Briefings were originally prepared by students of University of Glasgow, Rebecca Foster and Greg Duncan and have since been updated by SCCJR staff in 2019. 

What is crime?

As well as providing a definition of crime, this briefing explores how it is decided which human behaviours should be considered a ‘crime’ and which should not.

Theories and causes of crime


There is no one ‘cause’ of crime. In fact, crime is a highly complex phenomenon and criminologists, policy makers, law-makers and others are still trying to understand it. This briefing provides an overview of some of the key criminological theories which aim to explain the causes of crime. The briefing also includes a discussion of the explanations of youth crime.


Scottish criminal justice system

An overview of the main aspects of the criminal justice system in Scotland: the police service; crown office and procurator fiscal service; court system; prison system; and criminal justice social work services.

Victims of Crime

This briefing presents some key findings taken from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) relating to the actual risk of victimisation and perceived risk of victimisation.


Crime and the media 

This briefing focuses on the relationship between the media and crime. It includes a discussion of the ways in which crime is portrayed in the media and how the media can influence crime.


Violence against women and girls

This briefing focuses on the prevalence and impact of violence against women and girls in Scotland, with a particular focus on domestic abuse and sexual abuse.


Youth justice

A detailed account of the youth justice system in Scotland is provided here, including details of the Children’s Hearing System, interventions to prevent offending and divert young people from prosecution.



Capital punishment

What is capital punishment? Why is it no longer used in the UK? This briefing examines some of the arguments for the death penalty given by its supporters, and some of the arguments against, used by those who oppose it.


Who’s in prison? A snapshot of Scotland’s prison population

Consideration is given to the rate of imprisonment in Scotland, including an international comparison. The briefing also looks at characteristics of those imprisoned in Scotland, and of the status of remand prisoners.

What is prison for?

The purpose of imprisonment has evolved over centuries into its current form. This briefing discusses the contemporary role that prisons have in punishing and rehabilitating offenders. This briefing features an analysis of the issue of prisoners’ ‘right to vote’.



The penal system – community sentences and financial penalties

This briefing provides a detailed description of the various types of non-custodial sentences that are available to the courts in Scotland – that is, sentences which do not involve a prison sentence. An evaluation of the effectiveness of various sentences is provided and consideration is given to whether non-custodial sentences are an effective alternative to prison.




The penal system: reducing reoffending?

High levels of prisoner reoffending continue to pose a challenge, to the prison service, policy makers, social work services and wider society.  This briefing examines the role of the prison service in terms of efforts to reduce recidivism, while also considering the responsibilities of other parts of the criminal justice system in tackling this issue.

Impact of crime: the families of prisoners

This briefing seeks to provide an insight into an often-overlooked group in society adversely affected by crime: the families of prisoners. Particular consideration is given to the impact on children of prisoners.

Prison life 

What is it like in prison? What impact does prison life have on inmates? What do prisoners do on a day-to-day basis? This briefing explores these questions.

Women in prison

This briefing takes a look at the number of women in prison in Scotland, the provisions for female offenders and the characteristics of women in prison.

Knife crime

What do we mean by knife crime? Is knife crime a problem in Scotland? Which groups are most likely to be involved in knife crime? This briefing addresses these questions and considers what can be done to prevent and reduce knife crime.

Drug crime

This briefing provides an overview of current drug laws in the UK and of the prevalence of drug use in Scotland. It considers the relationship between drug use and wider criminality, and how policy makers seek to confront this issue.

Research methods and skills

Provides guidance for gathering and evaluating your own sources of information, including internet-based sources. A detailed section on ‘conducting your own social research’ is essential reading for Higher and Advanced Higher learners.

A Life in Pieces – Resources for Modern Studies students studying crime and law and criminology

This resource pack aims to support teachers and students in developing and consolidating their knowledge and understanding of the crime and law as they study their National 5’s and Advanced Highers.

This resource discusses the causes of crime by following the real-life story of ‘Alison’ as told via a graphic novel called A Life in Pieces written by Dr Marguerite Schinkel.

Find all the resources here.


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