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Student Research Guide WQ23/ Understanding the Psychology of Serial Killers

By Isadora White

Top 10 Resources

SCIENCE DIRECT DATABASE: Adjorlolo, Samuel, and Heng Choon Chan. “The Controversy of Defining Serial Murder: Revisited.” Aggression and Violent Behavior, vol. 19, no. 5, 2014, pp. 486–491.,  

Both authors work at the Department of Applied Social Sciences, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. This sources dives into the legal definitions of serial murders, proposes a more understood definition while using three key elements: “ (1) Two or more forensic linked murders with or without a revealed intention of committing additional murder, (2) the murders are committed as discrete event(s) by the same person(s) over a period of time, and (3) where the primary motive is personal gratification.”

SCIENCE DIRECT DATABASE: Auxemery, Yann. “The Mass Murderer History: Modern Classifications, Sociodemographic and Psychopathological Characteristics, Suicidal Dimensions, and Media Contagion of Mass Murders.” Comprehensive Psychiatry, vol. 56, Jan. 2015, pp. 149–154.,  

Yann Auxemery works in the Department of Psychiatry and Clinical Psychology, Hospital of Instruction of Armees-Legouest, and this article was published on ProQuest, a reliable database for sources. This source mentions the first famous mass murders, Devotio and Amok, and it distinguishes the difference between mass murders and a serial killer. Also there are multiple sections regarding the media’s impact on criminal imitation 

INTERNET WEBSITE: Bernard, Thomas J., et al. “Criminology.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 1 Aug. 2022,  

Bernard is a professor at Pennsylvania State University, teaching criminal justice and sociology. This scholarly article gives an overview of criminology, and how it has evolved to fit in study areas.

PROQUEST DATABASE: Forsyth, Craig J. “Posing: The Sociological Routine of a Serial Killer.” American Journal of Criminal Justice, vol. 40, no. 4, 2015, pp. 861–875. ProQuest,

Forsyth works at the Department of Sociology, Picard Center, University of Louisiana. Craig Forsyth served as a mitigation investigator/expert on Ronald Dominique’s case. The common knowledge on how and why serial killers function how they do is discussed and applied to Ronald crimes and his life. 

SCIENCE DIRECT DATABASE: Hodgkinson, Sarah, et al. “Monsters, Madmen… and Myths: A Critical Review of the Serial Killing Literature.” Aggression and Violent Behavior, vol. 34, May 2017, pp. 282–289.,  

All authors are from the University of Leicester, UK. The author is a corresponding author at: Department of Criminology. This article mentions many misconceptions about serial crimes because of the “true crime” shows, and the media fascination by serial killers. In the paper the authors acknowledge the myths and confusion that follows about serial killers.

SCIENCE DIRECT DATABASE: Hood, Brittany, et al. “Method of Identification: Catching Serial Killers.” Forensic Science International, vol. 337, Aug. 2022,  

The authors did some of their research for this article by using “...Google, Yahoo, and Bing search engines, as well as LexisNexis and ProQuest, UPI, and online archives of newspapers. Only sources available in the public domain were used to establish case details.” Types of identification in serial homicide cases were listed in this article. This study also describes how methods of investigation vary over time and trends across decades.

SCIENCE DIRECT DATABASE: Leyton, Elliott. “Serial and Mass Murderers.” Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, & Conflict, Edited by Lester R. Kurtz, 2008, pp. 1901–1914., 

Elliott Leyton was an expert on serial homicide worldwide. Multiple and single murder is compared, psychobiological, social, and psychiatric/psychological perspectives are brought up in this article. Take note of the section labeled “Toward an Integrated Explanation.

EBSCOHOST DATABASE: Marono, Abbie Jean, et al. “A Behaviour Sequence Analysis of Serial Killers’ Lives: From Childhood Abuse to Methods of Murder.” Psychiatry, Psychology & Law, vol. 27, no. 1, Feb. 2020, pp. 126–37. EBSCOhost,

Abbie Jean Maronoa, Sasha Reid, Enzo Yaksicc, and David Adam Keatleya are the authors. In order: Psychology Department, University of Lincoln, Lincoln, UK; University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada;  Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA. With their research, these researchers wanted to provide a new method for understanding the developmental sequences of serial killers’ life histories. Behaviour Sequence Analysis (BSA) was used to understand the relationship between social interactions and behaviors linking to serial killers.  

SCIENCE DIRECT DATABASE: Miller, Laurence. “Serial Killers: I. Subtypes, Patterns, and Motives.” Aggression and Violent Behavior, vol. 19, no. 1, 2013, pp. 1–11,

Laurence Miller, PhD is a police psychologist in Palm Beach County. This source gives a well-written overview of serial killers, including popular serial killers through the times, different typology of killers (with a brief description to follow), and offenders. Also briefly mentions the media and America's fascination with serial killers.

PROQUEST DATABASE: White, John H., et al. "The Utilization of Forensic Science and Criminal Profiling for Capturing Serial Killers." Forensic Science International (Online), vol. 209, no. 1, 2011, pp. 160-165. ProQuest,,

This article was published on ProQuest, a reliable source for articles and it’s peer reviewed. This article mentions public misunderstanding due to the TV shows that “sugarcoat” forensics/crime analysis. There are 12 categories that describe how serial killers come to the attention of the police. 

Six Recommended Keywords/Search Terms

Key search words/terms 

  1. Criminologists
  2. Psychology and "serial killers"
  3. Subtypes and "serial killers" 
  4. Sociology 
  5. Crime patterns and "serial killers"
  6. Psychopathology
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