Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Wilson R. Palacios, Ph.D.

Committee Member

John K. Cochran, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Christine S. Sellers, Ph.D.


Criminal decision-making, Ethnography, Grounded theory, Theory elaboration


Since the early 18th century, rational choice models have been applied extensively to criminological research, theory, and policy in an effort to understand crime and criminality. Over the past few decades, the rational choice perspective has attempted to integrate theoretical concepts, operational measures, and research findings from contemporary studies within the psychology, sociology and criminology disciplines, which have attempted to re-operationalize what was already conceptualized in the expected utility model (i.e., individuals choose to engage in criminal activity if the expected utility of crime exceeds that of all other behavioral options) by incorporating additional factors (e.g., a broader range of potential rewards, moral inhibition, emotional elements) into the measurement process. However, despite an effort to expand the expected utility function in the rational choice perspective, rational choice studies have most often been applied to street offenders. Using a sample of six books containing the lives and experiences of professional criminals, this study utilizes a qualitative meta-synthesis (in which grounded theory methods and thick description are employed for the identification and integration of key concepts from within the sample) to examine the effectiveness of the rational choice perspective in the explanation of professional crime, and assess the efficacy of these operational enhancements while providing conceptual clarity within the rational choice perspective.