Despite increasing awareness of the decisive role of social determinants, or 'particularising forces' to use Neil Smelser's vivid term, on the development of criminology in a given national context, there is no widely accepted conceptual framework for their investigation. The literature on national 'criminologies' has increased substantially over the last decade; arguably this is a key task given criminology's particular 'contingent' presence as a modern social science. The study of its development in different 'national contexts', therefore, becomes all the more relevant to our understanding. However, it is also evident that existing studies make little explicit use of frameworks of analysis. This paper reviews six heuristic frameworks drawn from the literatures of 'science studies' and the sociology of knowledge; it also illustrates with examples from criminology. We argue that there is now a need for those researching 'national' criminologies to be much more explicit about the conceptual framework(s) utilized. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.