Introduction to Forensic Science

Study Forensic Science

The term ‘forensic’ relates to the use of scientific techniques and methods to investigate crimes. The word forensic is derived from the Latin word ‘forensis’, meaning an open court or forum. In Ancient Rome, this was where the law courts were held and aspects of law were debated by the judiciary.

Modern day forensic science is concerned with the application of science to the administration of law.  The goal of forensic science is to match:

  • Suspect to crime scene

  • Suspect to victim

  • Victim to crime scene

  • Victim to suspect

  • Crime scene to crime scene

Forensic science is not a single science as such, but is an umbrella term for many different scientific methods of analysing evidence. To be a competent forensic scientist you first have to be good at science and have an understanding of areas such as biology, physics, chemistry, and computer science. There are a number of specialist fields within forensic science which focus on examining different types of evidence. These include things like fingerprint analysis, firearms and ballistics, and drug testing. 

On the periphery of forensic science are some specialised fields of investigation. These include things like forensic entomology (study of insects at crime scenes), odontology (forensic dentistry), and palynology (study of pollen and spore evidence).   



There are ten lessons in this course as follows:

Lesson 1. Nature of Forensic Science

  • Introduction
  • What is forensic science
  • Laboratory sciences
  • Field sciences
  • Digital Services
  • Forensic medicine
  • Origins and principles
  • Toxicology
  • Anthropology
  • Fingerprinting
  • Bloodstains
  • Ballistics
  • Documents
  • Criminalistics
  • DNA profiling
  • Underlying principles
  • Expert witness

Lesson 2. Forensic science and law

  • Scientific principles
  • Validity
  • Feature comparison methods
  • Problems with validity
  • Application of forensic science to law
  • Use of evidence
  • Relationship with law
  • Ways of categorising crimes
  • What is evidence
  • Direct evidence
  • Circumstantial evidence
  • Types of physical and biological evidence

Lesson 3. Evidence Collection

  • Chain of custody
  • Crime scene investigations
  • First respondents
  • Initial assessment of the scene
  • Processing the scene
  • Collecting samples - firearms, body fluids, crime scene suspect
  • Trace evidence
  • Tool marks, tyre and footwear impressions
  • Fingerprints, documents, etc.
  • Completion of crime scene investigation

Lesson 4. Analysis of Evidence

  • Purpose of analysis
  • Individuality principle
  • Exchange principle
  • Law of progressive change
  • Law of comparison
  • Law of analysis
  • Law of circumstantial facts
  • Law of probability
  • How laws are applied to analysis
  • Statistical analysis
  • Human/ user error
  • Correlation versus causation
  • Unvariate analysis
  • Laboratory analysis -blood, hair, fingerprints
  • Dactyloscopy
  • DNA - touch DNA, Low copy number DNA
  • Blood
  • Drugs and toxicology
  • Use of laboratory evidence

Lesson 5. Specialist Forensics

  • Civil versus criminal courts
  • Types of forensics used
  • Digital and electronic forensics
  • Gathering evidence
  • Order of volatility
  • Forensic pathology
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Forensic psychology
  • What do forensic psychologists do

Lesson 6. Criminology

  • Psychological theories
  • Psychodynamic theory - the id, the ego, the super ego
  • Behavioural theory
  • Social learning theory
  • Cognitive theory
  • Moral development
  • Personality and crime
  • Intelligence and crime
  • Children and crime
  • Violence in children
  • Age of criminal responsibility

Lesson 7. Psychological Disorders and Crime

  • Mental health disorder
  • Criminal offences - causality
  • Legal aspects
  • Types of disorder and crime
  • Psychoses
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders
  • Personality Disorders
  • Psychopathy
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Schizoid Personality Disorder
  • Substance Us
  • Mental health in children and crime
  • Conduct disorder
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder

Lesson 8. Criminal Profiling and Intelligence

  • Criminal profiling
  • Role of Forensic Psychologists & Psychiatrists in Profiling
  • Police Profiling
  • Statistical Profiling
  • Applications of Profiling
  • Profiling Typologies
  • Problems with Profiling
  • Intelligence
  • Intelligence gathering - Surveillance, Fixed Surveillance, Mobile Surveillance, Tracking Offenders, Crime Analysis

Lesson 9. Presenting Evidence in Court

  • Burden of proof
  • Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
  • Other Standards of Proof
  • Admissibility of Evidence
  • Evidence
  • Documentary Evidence
  • Real evidence
  • Demonstrative Evidence
  • Witnesses and Testimonial Evidence
  • Expert Witness Testimony
  • Eyewitness Testimonies
  • Character Witness Testimonies

Lesson 10. Ethical Issues

  • Legislation vs. Legislature
  • Purpose of the Law
  • Purpose of Ethics
  • Ethical Practice and Forensic Science
  • Ethics as Protective
  • Jury Tainting
  • Chain of Custody 
  • Professional Responsibilities for the Psychology and Counsellor
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Duty of Care
  • Sexual Exploitation
  • Group Counselling
  • Persons with Diminished Capacity
  • Multicultural Issues and Respect
  • Client Records and Confidentiality
  • Dual Relationships
  • Professional Consultation
  • Mental Health and Psychology
  • Labelling and Mental Health 
  • Ethical Implications In Forensic Psychology - confidentiality, best interests


DURATION:   100 hours of self paced study


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