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Abstract

We seek to address criticisms of the concept of moral panics (MPs) by offering a hybrid model of MPs that synthesizes theory and practice of MPs research. A review of the literature on MPs from sociology, media studies and related fields shows a wide variety of usage and lack of conceptual clarity of the term ‘moral panic’. Yet there are few articles explaining how to analyze MPs. We present a theoretical clarification of MPs by addressing elements of scope, intensity and reception, to create distinction from other related theoretical concepts. To develop a working method for researching MPs, one must have an understanding of social conditions that give rise to, sustain and result in the success or failure of MPs, as well as possible lasting effects. We synthesize Cohen’s process-oriented model of MPs and Goode & Ben-Yehuda’s attribution-oriented model of MPs, creating a critical hybrid model of MPs that integrates processes and attributes. We then utilize the hybrid model to offer practical suggestions for researching and analyzing the conditions, processes and effects of MPs, in the hopes of encouraging a more rigorous research agenda for scholars of MPs.