Introduction to Forensic Science - PS301

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Spring 4 15 (7.5) MR R Green checkmark-circle


Forensic Science; Evidence and the Scene of the Crime
What is forensic science? Historical and legal background of forensic science – exchange principles and linkage theory. Forensic science in the U.K – inductive and deductive reasoning. Identification, characterisation, recovery and weighting of trace evidence types. Crime scene searching methodologies; the integrity and continuity of evidence. Introduction to laboratory testing dealing with glass, tool-mark, shoe-mark and tyre impressions. The management of scientific support at crime scenes. Procedures at crime scenes illustrated by reference to crimes of burglary, murder and sexual offences. Fingerprint history, classification, recovery and chemical enhancement of fingerprints. Blood pattern analysis supporting the advances in DNA techniques. Firearms classification, internal & external ballistics, trajectory, mass and velocity. Firearms injuries at crime scenes. Introduction to DNA analysis and the functioning of the National DNA Database. Sexual offence investigation and body fluid identification. Clinical indicators of death and murder scene investigation.
Drug Abuse, Alcohol and Forensic Toxicology
Drugs of abuse and their identification. Drugs, alcohol poisons and their metabolism. Toxicology and the role of the forensic toxicologist. Qualitative and quantitative laboratory analysis.
Document Examination:
Signature and handwriting identification. Paper, inks and printed documents. Damage characterisation.
Fires and Explosions:
Arson. Fire and combustion. Types of explosives and the nature of explosions. The crime scene investigation: sampling and laboratory analysis.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

28 hours of lectures.


This is available as a wild module.

Method of assessment

Examination (Length 2 hours) 75%; Coursework 25% including on-line assignments.

Indicative reading

Crime Scene to Court, the Essentials of Forensic Science, 3rd edition, ed. P. White. Royal Society of Chemistry, 2010. ISBN:1847558828.

  • Forensic Science, 3rd edition, A.R.W. Jackson & J. M. Jackson. Pearson, 2011. ISBN: 9780273738404.

  • Criminalistics, 10th edition, R. Saferstein. Prentice Hall, 2010. ISBN: 0132545799.

    See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

    Learning outcomes

    Knowledge and understanding of core and foundation scientific physical, biological, and chemical concepts, terminology, theory, units, conventions, and laboratory methods in relation to forensic science.

  • Areas of chemistry (including analytical chemistry, fires and explosions,) as applied to forensic analysis.
  • Areas of bioscience including cells, biochemistry, human DNA.
    Numeracy (including data analysis and statistics), forensic investigation and interpretation (including image analysis, forensic archaeology, ballistics, interrogation, and the extraction, analysis, interpretation of physical evidence) and apply them to forensic examination and analysis.
  • Incident investigation, evidence recovery, preservation, and presentation as an expert witness within the judicial environment.
  • Ability to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of essential facts, concepts, principles and theories relating to forensic science and to apply such knowledge and understanding to the solution of qualitative and quantitative problems.
  • Ability to recognise and analyse novel problems involving forensic science and plan strategies for their solution by the evaluation, interpretation and synthesis of scientific information and data by a variety of computational methods.
  • Safe handling of firearms, ammunition, and propellants.
  • Analysis of forensic evidence related to firearms, firearm discharge, and ballistic theory.
  • Evidence recovery, preservation, analysis, and presentation to professional standards.
  • Communication skills, covering both written and oral communication. Self-management and organisational skills with the capacity to support life-long learning.
  • Problem-solving skills, relating to qualitative and quantitative information, extending to situations where evaluations have to be made on the basis of limited information.
  • Numeracy and computational skills, including such aspects as error analysis, order-of-magnitude estimations, correct use of units and modes of data presentation.
  • Information-retrieval skills, in relation to primary and secondary information sources, including information retrieval through on-line computer searches.


    1. Credit level 4. Certificate level module usually taken in the first stage of an undergraduate degree.
    2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
    3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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