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Forensic Science

Module titleForensic Science
Module codeBIO2068
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Katie Solomon (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will provide you with a scientific understanding of the detection of crime through a series of expert witness lectures supported by lectures on the scientific principles. We have an extensive programme of expert witness lectures from professionals working in the field nationally. In collaboration with the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, we have lectures from crime scene investigators, a forensic pathologist, a criminal barrister, a terminal wound ballistics expert, forensic psycho-profiling, DNA fingerprint experts and we also hold a firearms workshop to provide hands-on experience. The module is an excellent test of logical reasoning with foundations in scientific methods.

Delivered over two terms, the module allows non-scientists to gain knowledge of the basic scientific principles in the first term which enables them to understand the lectures provided expert witness in the second term.

BIO2068 is an optional module for students within the University with no scientific training.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module will discuss the scientific principles of forensic science starting with a basic introduction to the structure of matter and the human body. The essential analytical chemistry techniques will then be introduced. You will use the principles of physical science for the detection of crime. The module will introduce you to the elements of physical science and mathematics and examine the analytical techniques that are relevant to forensic science. In addition, relevant aspects of human biology will be covered. The module will then cover some of the kinds of physical evidence found at crime scenes (e.g. fingerprints, firearms and ammunition, hair, fibres, glass fragments, impression, splash patterns, arson and paint fragments; drug identification; forensic serology (blood group analysis, the characterisation of semen and saliva); DNA fingerprinting and elements of forensic pathology. The module can be studied by students without a scientific background.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Critically analyse forensic evidence in the detection of crime
  • 2. Discuss the analytical techniques used in forensic science and their correct choice
  • 3. Evaluate aspects of human biology as it relates to forensic investigations
  • 4. Analyse a crime scene and explain how material is collected and how subsequently that material is interrogated by a range of forensic techniques
  • 5. Describe how forensic evidence is presented in court
  • 6. Discuss the application of science in the context of crime detection and the law

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Apply scientific principles to the critical analysis of crime scenes
  • 8. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation and enquiry within the biosciences

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Apply factual information to develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 10. Collect and interpret appropriate data, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 11. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently by written means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The lectures will cover all of the following subjects presented flexibly throughout the term by scientists and expert witness lectures:

  • Crime scene analysis including blood visualisation and blood tying
  • Crime scene investigation and reconstruction
  • Physical evidence at the crime scene including: fingerprints, firearms and ammunition, hair, fibres, glass; fragments, impression, splash patterns, arson and paint fragments
  • Human biology including: drug identification and substances of abuse: cannabis, heroin, cocaine and alcohol
  • Forensic serology: blood group analysis, the characterisation of semen and saliva
  • DNA fingerprinting: 1) Methods of determination and statistical significance 2) mitochondria maternal
  • Post mortem interval, forensic pathology
  • Terminal wound ballistics
  • Forensic science and the law
  • Presentation of scientific evidence and case histories.

All of the information will form the basis of a critical analysis technique to determine the methods of detection, limitations of the methods, estimations of post mortem intervals and construction of a scientifically justified sequence of events.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching36Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4Workshop
Guided Independent Study30Independent online research
Guided Independent Study230Case study preparation


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Case study examination in lecturesAllOral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Case study 1:1402000 wordsAllWritten and oral
Case study 2:1201000 wordsAllWritten and oral
Case study 2:2402000 wordsAllWritten and oral


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Case study 1:1Case study 1:1AllAugust Ref/Def
Case study 2:1Case study 2:1AllAugust Ref/Def
Case study 2:2Case study 2:2AllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to represent the relevant failed case study/studies. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Criminalistics Richard Saferstein, 7th Edition (or later) Prentice-Hall, USA (2001), ISBN 0-13-013827-4

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Forensic science, crime scene, post mortem

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date