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Forensic Science

Module titleForensic Science
Module codeBIO2066
Academic year2020/1
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, delivered over term 2, 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, and DNA fingerprint experts; 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.

Students with no scientific training are encouraged to take BIO2068 Forensic Science instead of BIO2066; BIO2068 is the 30 credit version of BIO2066 and introduces all of the relevant science in the first term.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to develop your ability to conduct analysis of theoretical crime scene situations and report your evaluation clearly and effectively using critical analysis of outside literature.

The module will develop your ability to think critically, analyse information, challenge and problem solve in the context of crime scene investigation. Through presentations from visiting speakers representing a wide range of professions including Crime Scene Managers, Barristers at Law, pathologists, Forensic laboratory Scientists, we aim to expose you to different ways of working, thinking, approaching problems and applying logical scientific analysis to crime scene situations.

Many of these employability skills are applicable to future careers in a variety of professions.

You will be introduced to the scientific principles of investigating evidence using examples such as:

  • Fibres, glass, gunshot residue, explosives, paint, drugs, DNA, blood, hair, soil

You will be given an introduction to the following analytical techniques used in forensic investigation:

  • Presumptive tests
  • Elemental analysis
  • Molecular spectroscopy
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Microscopic techniques

Through presentations from visiting speakers you will understand the process of recognition, enhancement, preservation, recovery, scientific analysis, interpretation, evaluation and presentation of evidence in criminal investigation.

We will also teach you how to apply your knowledge to construct a sequence of events and a crime scene map from presented evidence. You will be guided how to marshal a body of facts and construct a logical, scientifically justified, critical analysis of scientific evidence.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate knowledge of the principal scientific techniques and skills required for the recognition, processing, recording, preservation, recovery, analysis and interpretation of evidence at and from a range of crime scenes.
  • 2. Evaluate the limitations and principles of uncertainty in analysis and interpretation of forensic evidence.
  • 3. Construct logical arguments and effectively communicate theories in different formats, including crime scene maps and a sequence of events.
  • 4. Interpret written instruction to create time and spatial reconstructions of complex events with attention to detail.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Apply scientific principles to real life situations
  • 6. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 7. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding
  • 8. Analyse in detail essential facts and theory in a sub-discipline of 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. Effectively communicate justifications, evidence and conclusions using both graphical and written means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience.
  • 11. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (i.e. communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Teaching will be provided predominantly in the format of lectures where scientific principles and first-hand experience of professionals working within the fields of forensic investigation will be delivered.

Two workshops will provide the opportunity to work through an example case study and use peer assessment to gain awareness of the marking criteria and style of writing for case studies.

One workshop will provide experience of ballistics and firearms through collaboration with Devon and Cornwall Constabulary.

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 Teaching18Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4Workshop
Guided Independent Study113Case study preparations
Guided Independent Study15Independent online research


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short answer questions and MCQs aligned to lecture content11 x 1 hour1-2, 5Online
Peer marking of formative case studies during workshops2 x 1 hourAllOral

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 2:1401500 words1-2, 5-9Written and oral
Case study 2:2601500 words1-10Written 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 2:1Case study 2:11-2, 5-9August Ref/Def
Case study 2:2Case study 2:21-10August 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 investigation, analytical science

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

BIO1333 Fundamental Principles for Bioscientists

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date