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Study information

Forensic Science

Module titleForensic Science
Module codeBIO2068
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Katie Solomon (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Term 1:

Teaching in term 1 allows non-scientists to gain knowledge of the basic scientific principles associated with forensic investigation.

Chemistry:- Emphasis on analytical techniques, the identification of materials and the determination of their composition. The underlying physical principles and the individual limitations of the techniques, as well as the chemical interactions taking place.

Biology:- Molecular biology and biochemistry (with particular emphasis on nucleic acids, proteins, enzymes and

biochemical processes, molecular genetics and principles of inheritance), anatomy, organ systems.

Physics:- Elementary optics (including principles of microscopy), classical mechanics (as relevant to projectiles, ballistics and explosions), physical properties of matter, radiation and its effects.

Term 2:

Provides application of 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.

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


Course content warning:

The content of BIO2066/BIO2068 Forensic Science contains images, depictions and descriptions of murder, sexual assault, self-harm, violence and death that some students may find offensive and/or traumatizing.

Material of a graphic nature will be presented in pre-recorded material to be watched at home and also during in-person sessions.

This content is integral to the module and should be considered when making module choices.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module will provide a basic introduction to the chemical, biological and physical principles associated with forensic investigation.

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 a theoretical introduction in how the following analytical techniques are 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. Understand the biological, chemical and physical principles associated with forensic investigation.
  • 2. Discuss the analytical techniques used in forensic science and their correct choice.
  • 3. 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.
  • 4. Evaluate the limitations and principles of uncertainty in analysis and interpretation of forensic evidence.
  • 5. Construct logical arguments and effectively communicate theories in different formats, including crime scene maps and a sequence of events.
  • 6. 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...

  • 7. Apply scientific principles to real life situations
  • 8. Analyse and evaluate independently a range of research-informed literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 9. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding
  • 10. 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...

  • 11. Apply factual information to develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions.
  • 12. Effectively communicate justifications, evidence and conclusions using both graphical and written means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience.
  • 13. 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

Teaching will be provided in a blended format. Scientific principles will be introduced in pre-recorded lectures, then these principles will be applied to forensic scenarios in in-person synchronous sessions. In-person lectures by guest speakers will provide first-hand experience of professionals working within the fields of forensic investigation.

Three 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 Police

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 Teaching44In-person lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching4Workshops
Guided Independent Study26Lecture consolidation, completion of formative quizzes and associated reading, coursework preparation, revision for MCQ exam
Guided Independent Study6Formative Case study preparation for workshops

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
MCQs aligned to lecture content11x 1 hour1-4, 7Online
Peer marking of formative case studies during workshops2x 1 hour2-13Oral

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
MCQ questions201 hour1,2Online
Case study 2:1301000 words3, 4, 7-11Written and oral
Case study 2:2 (groupwork)501500 words3-12Written and oral

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
MCQ questionsMCQ questions (20%)1,2August Ref/Def
Case study 2:1Referred/ deferred Case study 2:1 (30%)3, 4, 7-11August Ref/Def
Case study 2:2 (groupwork)Referred/ deferred Case study 2:2 (individual) (50%)3-12August Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons that are approved by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. If deferred, the format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). The mark given for a deferred assessment 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 (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) and the module cannot be condoned, you will be required to complete a re-assessment for each of the failed components on the module. The format and timing of the re-assessment for each of the summative assessments is detailed in the table above ('Details of re-assessment'). If you pass the module following re-assessment, your module mark 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

Key words search

Forensic science, crime scene investigation, analytical science

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date