BSc (Hons) Forensic Investigation

Our Forensic Investigation degree allows students without a traditional science background, or those with a specific interest in this field, to acquire knowledge relating to the use of forensic techniques in a wide range of criminal investigations.

Investigations could include sport and competition drugs testing, consumer protection and authenticity, DNA analysis in food testing, wildlife crime, and toxicological investigations linked to chemical and biological terrorism.

You’ll gain practical skills in volume crime scene examination, analysis of forensic evidence, and courtroom simulations. The Forensic Investigation degree will also teach you about the structure and processes that regulate the criminal justice system, and the law associated with criminal investigation.

You’ll undertake simulated investigations in our multi-room Crime Scene Training Facility, ranging from domestic burglaries and vehicle examinations to more complex scenes such as arson and homicide. You’ll study several cases and learn about the forensic techniques used to solve the crime, and be able to critically appraise and evaluate forensic approaches.

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You will study a diverse range of subject areas relevant to forensic investigation, including crime scene investigation, collection and analysis of evidence, the structure and processes which regulate the criminal justice system and laws associated with criminal investigation.

Year One: Forensic Investigation Degree

During the first year, you will receive an introduction to the various disciplines within the forensic science field and this will be complimented with practical experience gained through the examination of realistic simulated crime scenes from domestic burglaries to homicide within our suite of forensic laboratories and bespoke crime scene house. Other subject areas such as Policing, Health and Safety, Introductory Science and Mathematics will also be studied. Modules include:

  • Introduction to Forensic Science
    This module will provide you with a comprehensive introduction to the technical and practical aspects of selected topics within forensic science. Areas covered include forensic geology; forensic odontology and anthropology; homicide investigation; criminal profiling; forensic entomology; accident investigation; current and anticipated crime trends and legal systems in England and Wales.
  • Introduction to Criminalistics
    The practice of forensic science requires an understanding of a broad range of forensic topics and involves many investigative techniques. This module will provide you with the knowledge, practical understanding and technical ability relating to the investigation of crime. Here you will study introduction to crime scene investigation; documentation; collection and preservation of physical evidence; interpretation of crime scene evidence and crime scene reconstruction.
  • Police Duties and Law I
    This module will provide you with an introduction to criminal law as relevant to England and Wales, covering areas currently incorporated within the training of police officers, such as evidence and procedure, road policing, crime and general police duties.
  • Science for Forensic Investigation
    Within this module you will be introduced to the concepts of scientific investigation, measurement, accuracy and essential chemical and biological theories and practices involved in forensic investigation.  This will include assisting you to develop good laboratory technique within these areas, but also an introduction to chemistry, cell and molecular biology, serology, genetics and DNA.
  • Crime Analysis, Criminal Justice and the Courts
    This module will introduce students to the criminal justice system. This will include an overview of the major agencies involved and their legal powers and governance including the Police, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), and the Probation Service. Students will learn about the scientific tools used to evaluate crime, its origin and context, prevalence, and effects upon victims and society. There will also be an overview of the classification and recording of criminal offences and the forensic evidence associated with each.
  • Key Skills for Forensic Practice
    This module will provide you with an appreciation of the principles of safe working in laboratories, accident prevention and the promotion of safety in the workplace and the consequences for health due to exposure to hazards. You will develop an understanding of the information concerning hazards in performing experimental work and in the calculation of the probability of an accident and to estimate risk. Additionally the use of IT for scientific working, accessing journals and referencing skills are provided.

Year Two: Forensic Investigation Degree

During the second year of study, you will further enhance your skills through the analysis of evidence in the laboratory, learning about the various chemical and biological analyses that are used within forensic laboratories. Specialist disciplines such as photography, Forensic Earth Science, Computer Forensics and microscopy are introduced here. Modules studied include:

  • Forensic Evidence
    Through studying this module you will understand the role, duties and limitations of expert witnesses within forensic science provision. In addition to this, you will develop competence in analysing; summarising, presenting, organising and reporting on trace evidence types and receive instruction on the retrieval and evaluation of data and information from accident scenes.
  • Volume Crime Scene Examination
    Within this module you will gain practical digital imaging, crime scene photography and video experience recording a variety of crime scenes scenarios. This will involve studying the theoretical aspects of photography, and equipment: Films and film speeds, camera formats, focal length, aperture and depth of field, lighting techniques and flash. In addition to this, you will gain practical training in core skills for the crime scene investigator within a series of simulated volume crime scenes including vehicle examination.
  • Police Duties and Law II
    This module will enable you to interpret and relate current and new legislation to police practice and procedures. It will allow you to identify and analyse the effects of legislation on communities and partner agencies. Students will be given the opportunity to further develop knowledge, confidence and competence in application of law as a tool for problem solving.
  • Digital Forensics (e-crime)
    You will develop knowledge and evaluate the tools and techniques associated with the creation and delivery of a computer forensic service within a team environment. You will learn to demonstrate knowledge and skill in the processes required to manage a forensic project, from initial seizure to presenting evidence in the courtroom.
  • Investigative Approaches
    This module will introduce students to an understanding of the reactive and proactive approaches to criminal investigations. You will learn about Investigative Interviewing. This will include Interviewing victims, witnesses and suspects and evidence and intelligence gathering. You will also be given an introduction to the complex field of forensic psychology, to understand its role and uses in the criminal investigation procedure.
  • Practical Applications of Forensic Investigation
    You will learn about the prevalence, abuse and effects and forensic examination of drugs and alcohol. This will include the sports doping, hair analysis and in the investigation of consumer products. In addition to this, you will gain an appreciation of the role of earth science data in the forensic examination of crime scenes or reported episodes.

Year Three: Forensic Investigation Degree

You will be introduced to more complex Forensic Investigation areas such as Fire and Explosion and Specialist areas of Forensic Investigation. Emphasis will still be placed on the Policing strand of the course and the importance of crime scene processing, and evidence handling in the laboratory. You will also undertake an independent literature review research project. Modules studied include:

  • Research, Employability and Professional Skills
    This will involve the scientific evaluation of cases and evidence and statistical evaluation of forensic evidence and professional ethics and standards. Cases will include forensic pathology, homicide, suicide and accidental death amongst others. In addition to this, you will be introduced to the court room processes and the role of the expert witness, barristers, cross-examination and evidence in chief. As part of this module, you will conduct a literature review which will involve a critical evaluation of primary information and data on a selected topic within forensic science.
  • Forensic Microscopy
    You will develop an understanding of the optic principles involved in microscopy and appreciate the microscope as an instrument to examine and analyse specimens which are applicable to forensic science. In addition to this, you will develop a capacity to interpret images and draw conclusions from these observations. Samples may include textiles, fibres, food and drugs, soil, pollen and tissue samples. In addition to this you will gain an understanding in, and hands on experience of using the Scanning Electron Microscope.
  • Forensic Evidence II
    You will acquire practical experience in trace evidence analyses using associated instrumentation and develop competence in case management and evidence interpretation. In addition to this, you will receive theoretical and practical instruction in traffic incidents and the use of GIS in the statistical analysis of crimes.
  • Police Duties and Law III
    It will enable you to critically analyse complex legislation in the context of police practice and procedures. You will learn to differentiate and discriminate in analysing, summarising, interpreting and applying the nature and effects of complex legislation and it enhances knowledge, confidence and competency in the application of complex law involved in personal development and progression within policing.
  • Specialist Forensic Investigation
    Within this module you will be provided with an understanding of a variety of specialist investigation fields including wildlife forensics, forensic engineering and the investigation of biological and radiological hazards. In addition to this, you will learn about bioterrorism and its’ investigation and wildlife forensics.
  • Fire and Explosion Investigation
    This module provides an in-depth and detailed overview of fire science, fire scene investigation, fatal fire investigation, vehicle fire investigation, explosives and explosion scene investigation.

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Teaching

The Forensic Investigation course will be delivered through a series of lectures, tutorials and practical classes. In addition to this, students are expected to undertake both directed and independent learning, reading around the subject area.

On an average week, students may be expected to attend the following:

  • Six lectures
  • Three to four hours of tutorials or workshops
  • Up to 10-12 hours of practical work
  • Independent directed study

The timetable may be spread over all five days of the taught week (Monday to Friday inclusive) or it may for example, allow students half a day or a full day free from contact classes. This is subject to change on a weekly basis depending upon when individual activities for modules are timetabled.

Guest lecturers are invited to speak to students on a range of topics. Previous topics have included fire investigation, ballistics cases and identification of bodies from mass graves.

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Assessment

Students will be assessed by various means, including written examinations, in class tests, essays, reports, practical exercises, presentations, assessed tutorials. Some modules will be continually assessed and others may have an end of year examination. The following values demonstrate approximate contributions of examinations and continuous assessment for each year of study:

Year One
Written end of year examination 20%
Continuous Assessment 80%

Year Two
Written end of year examination 30%
Continuous Assessment 70%

Year Three
Written end of year examination 25%
Continuous assessment 75%

Written end of year examination refers to examinations formally taken at the end of the academic year. Other tests may form part of the continuous assessment element of the modules.

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