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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Sociology

Undergraduate Course: Sociology of Illicit Markets and Criminal Organisations (SCIL10089)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryDigitally mediated illicit markets, particularly those in illicit drugs and malware, challenge existing assumptions in criminology, sociology, policing and politics regarding the makeup and motivations of criminal operations and the relationship between online markets and the illicit supply chain. You will join a research team with students and staff and focus on a live, real world problem set by the course. The emphasis is on the analysis and problem solving skills you bring and learn during the course. We will examine questions of ethics and politics, the motives of market participants, and the global patterning of illicit markets.
Course description The initial focus of the course is on drug cryptomarkets - online markets for the sale of illegal drugs and illegal services. However you may take your research in a direction of interest to you, such as markets in malware, sex work and security technology and other aspects of digital deviance that may not be directly criminal.
Questions we will examine in the course:
What are the ethics and politics of research and law enforcement interventions in drug cryptomarkets?
What motivates cyber-criminals?
What would be a suitable legal and ethical framework for law enforcement and related security activity online?
How can the benefits and costs of drug cryptomarkets be assessed?
How can the illicit supply chain be investigated?
How can the effectiveness of law enforcement action in drug cryptomarkets be measured?
What are the organizational problems faced by people running illegal businesses?
What global patterns and variations are there in illicit markets?

The course will be taught through a combination of seminars/workshops and lecturer/tutor led research teams. The course will respond to the problems students identify in their teams, hence the specific direction may vary during the course depending on students' own interests.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites It is RECOMMENDED that students have passed Designing and Doing Social Research (SCIL10062) OR Introduction to Statistics for Social Science (SSPS08008) OR Doing Social Research with Statistics (SSPS08007) OR Ethnography: Theory and Practice (SCAN08005)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesIt is RECOMMENDED that students have completed a previous research training or data science course such as: Designing and Doing Social Research, Introduction to Statistics for Social Science, Doing Social Research with Statistics, Ethnography: Theory and Practice, courses in Criminology and other courses which relate to the core material.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 5, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 15, Online Activities 6, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 1, Revision Session Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 166 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 25% research review and 75% essay
Feedback Essay feedback will be returned within 15 working days
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate and use their analytic and problem-solving skills in relation to illicit markets
  2. Learn, assess and implement a range of research approaches from data science, criminology, and the sociology of deviance
  3. Understand the ethical, political, epistemological and ontological problems involved in this research
  4. Develop their own research design and arguments in relation to illicit markets
  5. Apply their knowledge to present high impact, effective solutions to problems faced by relevant bodies
Reading List
Bancroft A and Scott Reid P (2016) Concepts of illicit drug quality among darknet market users: Purity, embodied experience, craft and chemical knowledge. International Journal of Drug Policy 35: 42:49. DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.11.008.

Holt TJ (2017) Identifying gaps in the research literature on illicit markets on-line. Global Crime 18(1): 1:10. DOI: 10.1080/17440572.2016.1235821.

Hall A and Antonopoulos GA (2016) Fake meds online: the internet and the transnational market in illicit pharmaceuticals. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course students should have strengthened their skills in:
Working with different datasets
Identifying and analysing problems of public relevance
Working with interdisciplinary teams

KeywordsSociology,Drugs,malware,cyber crime
Course organiserDr Angus Bancroft
Tel: (0131 6)50 6642
Course secretaryMiss Anna Hallam
Tel: (0131 6)51 1337
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