Fall 2020 - PSYC 990 G100

Seminar in Law and Psychology (3)

Violence and Gangs

Class Number: 3891

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 9:30 AM – 12:20 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    PSYC 790.



This course will focus on the methodological and theoretical complexities of violence perpetration. We will focus on the pros and cons of the numerous ways in which violence is defined and measured. Common theories, and their weaknesses, will be reviewed. Several core risk factors – psychopathy, mental disorder, substance use problems, and contextual factors – will be discussed. In the latter part of the course, we will focus on gangs, gang violence, and gang desistence, drawing upon foundational topics covered in the first part of the course. In addition, we will cover topics related to the real-world implementation of violence-related policies and practices (i.e., violence risk assessment; gang-exiting programs; violence reduction treatment programs).

Written Project Options

There are a few options for students:

1. A data-bearing (proto-)manuscript, meaning that you will have, at a minimum, a conceptual rationale, methods section and methodological justification, and at least a summary of results and point-form discussion for a peer-review style manuscript. Depending on the complexity of analyses, you may not be expected to have a full results section complete. You may choose to address a substantive topic (i.e., what is the role of automatic processes in aggression by psychopathic individuals? What predicts gang membership desistence?), a methodological topic (what is the impact of different measurement techniques on the association between X and Y?) or a statistical topic (factor analytic or item-response evaluation of a measure of violence). You may use any publicly available dataset, any of my datasets, any of your datasets, or any other dataset that you are permitted to use (talk to me about ethical requirements for accessing data sets).

2. A traditional review-style term paper on a topic of choice.

3. A research proposal.

4. A gang case study, plus mini-literature review/analysis.

Article Summary/Critique

For this assignment, graduate students will work with undergraduate students on an article summary and critique. Students will team up and find an empirical article of interest. The first critique will be done by the undergraduate student, who will then receive feedback from the graduate student(s). A final summary/critique will be submitted. For the undergraduate students, evaluation will focus on the summary/critique. For the graduate students, evaluation will focus on the feedback provided, as well as on an independent summary/review.


Please come prepared to ask questions! Students will be expected to participate in class discussions, and to submit a discussion question, issue, observation, criticism, or commentary to me via email or Canvas the day before class, with respect to the next day’s class readings or topic more generally. We’ll then chat about these in class.


Academic Dishonesty: Basically, don’t do it! Please review the following sites to ensure you understand what academic dishonesty is and how to avoid it. In particular, I strongly encourage you to take the library’s tutorial. http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html http://www.lib.sfu.ca/help/academic-integrity/plagiarism-tutorial


  • Written Project: 60%
  • Article Summary/Critique: 20%
  • Participation: 20%


This course will be synchronous.  Lectures will be offered remotely within scheduled class times.

Graduate Studies Notes:

Important dates and deadlines for graduate students are found here: http://www.sfu.ca/dean-gradstudies/current/important_dates/guidelines.html. The deadline to drop a course with a 100% refund is the end of week 2. The deadline to drop with no notation on your transcript is the end of week 3.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).