We breakdown the different theories you’ll learn in an online forensic science degree and also the courses expected at each degree level (Bachelor’s and Master’s). Understanding the courses you can expect to take will help you make a decision on starting the degree.
Scientific Method Applied to Forensic Science
In order to determine causal and environment effects of different crimes, it is vital to implicate meaning through the use of proven, unbiased methods. As with all sciences, the use of the scientific method seeks to help people understand natural phenomena without the presence of individual opinion or direction.
In forensic science, it is important for you to integrate the scientic method into studies and investigations, so that results are relevant and proven in terms of validity. During degree programs in forensic science, you may learn to apply various techniques and methods that can assist you in properly testing and analyzing crime scene evidence in an effor to solve crimes. Take a look at the example below to see how you may find yourself using the scientific method throughout the course of your career.
What is Your Research Question?
The start to any investigation or scientific experiment is a question. You might ask yourself, “What happened at this crime scene?”, or “What type of person is responsible for committing this crime?”. Both of these questions can set you on a mission to test different theories to find an answer.
Gather Your Evidence
Through the use of evidence collection, you may have an idea or theory about what happened at the crime scene. This part of the scientific method will not include the testing and analysis, but simply the overlook of what you have in front of you. For example, through your investigation of a crime scene, you find blood evidence that is located a great distance from the victim. This is the first sign that there is testable evidence for you to gather and analyze.
Form A Hypothesis
At this point, the forensic scientist may form a testable theory about the evidence gathered. During the course of an investigation, there may be many hypotheses formed about different evidence and their relationship to the crime.
You may wonder if blood evidence found belongs to the victim, an unknown victim, or even a perpetrator. Perhaps it was found in an area separate from the victim. In this case, you could hypothesize that the blood collected belongs to someone other than the victim – possibly even the perpetrator. The next steps in the scientific method would be to test and confirm or deny your hypothesis.
Test Your Hypothesis
In the example above, you have collected blood evidence and want to determine if it belongs to the victim or possible a perpetrator. In forensic science, you might use DNA testing to determing the origins of the blood. If the methods used for DNA testing confirm that the blood belongs to the victim, your hypothesis would be disproven, if it was unidentified – your hypothesis is confirmed!
Analyze Your Data and Form A Conclusion
Although this is not the final step in your investigation, this is the final step in this specific trial of the scientific method. If your hypothesis was confirmed, you may find yourself comparing DNA evidence to a national database to identify the origin of the blood or even collecting DNA from witnesses or people of interest to determine whose blood was found on the scene. This can be a building block that helps you in breaking down the crime, which leads to a potential conclusion to the case as a whole.
Common Courses In A Forensic Science Bachelor’s Degree
Forensic science is a fascinating field that includes many different aspects of investigation. While you are in the bachelor’s level program, you may be more likely to take courses that are introductory in nature and that seek to make you comfortable with the terms and applications associated with forensic science. The courses at this level differ from master’s level programs in that courses at the master’s level typically follow the lead of a specialization such as molecular biology, chemistry, or criminalistics.
Master’s programs also contain advanced courses, which can build upon what is taught in standard introductory courses. Our team picked apart some popular bachelor’s programs in forensic science to show you what you can likely expect while in your program. The list is below for you to browse.
Chemistry introduces students to the overall function and construct of matter. Chemistry can be the foundation to investigation and testing in forensic science and contributes to further understanding of crime scenes. This course teaches students how to correlate chemistry to everyday life, as well as teach the different chemical interactions present between substances. In relation to forensic science, this course may also be found in different stages, including lab studies, advanced chemistry applications, organic chemistry, and analytical chemistry. Lab requirements typically require students to apply their knowledge in a controlled laboratory setting.
Introduction to Forensic Science
Introduction to Forensic Science is the foundation for learning the basics of this discipline. Students taking this course can learn how to evidence is used during criminal investigations, in a court system, and throughout the entire criminal justice system. Different analytical techniques may also be discussed, which covers the basic analysis of bodily fluids, physical evidence, and ballistics.
Forensic DNA Analysis
Students taking this course may be introduced to how DNA analysis is used in forensic science. The subject matter focuses on biology and individual case studies as a primary means of instruction. The methods for collection of DNA, testing, and analyzing results is discussed in detail as well as the weaknesses of such evidence in the criminal justice system. This course is suitable for students that have no previous knowledge in DNA studies.
Expert Witness Testimony
This course focuses on the requirements, stipulations, and utilizations of expert witnesses in the criminal justice system. Students taking this course can learn how to qualify experts for testimony in a court setting, as well as the primary methods for gathering relevant information to be used during a trial. Students may also touch on ethics of such devices and take part in classroom discussions.
Ethics in Forensic Science
Ethics is the building block for a successful and relevant career in forensic science. Students may be required to take this course as part of their core curriculum in this degree program. The laws and regulations surrounding the collection of evidence, court procedures, and witness testimony may be discussed, as well as the proper methods of conducting business and working in the public domain.
Forensic Professional Practice
Students taking this class may find that it focuses primarily on the conduct and professionalism of forensic scientists. In the field of forensic science, it is vital that the interpretation of the law, the analysis of evidence, and the protection of the crime scene be conducted in a manner that is dignified. Students are taught to work in a manner that is representative of the forensic science community and the criminal justice system as a whole. Professional networking, taking part in professional organizations, and certification may also be encouraged throughout this course.
Scientific Approach to Crime Scene Investigation
Students in this class may learn the techniques and approaches relevant to appropriate crime scene investigation. The use of note-taking, imagery, and sketches is discussed as well as the enhancement of physical evidence in laboratories. Maintaining crime scenes and preventing contamination is examined, which is an important aspect of proper evidence collection. Students may also learn some of the ethical concerns associated with crime scene investigation as well as information pertaining to bias that can become apparent during the collection process.
Trace and Impression Evidence
Trace and impression evidence may provide students with the knowledge of proper collection procedures, uses, and applications of trace evidence in the criminal justice system. Comparison methods are discussed in detail and microscopy is taught as one of the primary means of investigating this type of evidence. Students may be taught to remain objective throughout the analysis of such evidence and provide results that are true and real to the specimen.
Common Courses In A Forensic Science Master’s Degree
During the course of a master’s program, you may find that you have the opportunity to choose from a variety of specialties. Depending on if you choose a specialty and which specialty you choose, the curriculum can change from the standard track. Since the typical master’s program has a variety of courses that are relevant to each specialty, you may find that the course information provided here is helpful regardless of which specialty you choose. Most master’s program provide advanced applications of forensic techniques that build upon what was learned in undergraduate studies. Our team of researchers dove into the master’s level coursework in forensic science to provide you with a list of common courses to review in you search for the right program.
Forensic Pattern Analysis
The analysis of patterns in forensic is a major component of criminal investigation. While in this course, students can learn the basics of determining relationships and visual similarities in tool marks, tire impressions, blood spatter, and fingerprints. Comparison of pattern evidence to a database of examples may be taught, as well as the identification of new and unique impressions or patterns found during crime scene investigations. While this course does touch on the collection methods and recording of such impressions, the main component of study is the final analysis and conclusion to testing in this area.
Analysis in Forensic Toxicology and Chemistry
Students taking this course can learn how to use chemical testing to determining if toxicants were used during the course of the crime. The presence of such toxicants is investigated, as well as their possible contribution to death, injury, or illness. The identification of toxicants can be used to both identify the cause of death or injury as well as to rule out regularly used or prescribed medications during the course of an investigation. Blood and tissue testing may be discussed in detail.
Research Methods in Forensic Science
Students taking this course may be introduced to the scientific method in relationship to forensic science. Establishing a hypothesis, indentifying variables, testing, and analysis may be taught to students from a criminalistic perspective. The importance of using the scientific method as a means for reliable results and ethical guidelines may also be touched on. Students can also take part in case studies and file reviews as part of the learning process.
Forensic serology seeks to teach students how to properly identify, test, and analyze evidence that is found in the form of fluid or stains. Students may be taught properly collection methods, chemical testing, DNA testing, and proper analysis. Individual examples and case studies may be examined to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the principles of serology from a forensic standpoint.
Forensic Chemistry Lab
Students may be responsible for applying their knowledge through the participation in laboratory experiments in this course. Solution prep, chromatography, chemical spot tests, and drug/pharmaceutical testing may be a large portion of the subject matter, as well as proper handling and care of specimens used in research. Documentation, reporting, and further testing may also be taught as part of the entire laboratory testing experience.
Students in this course can learn the basic uses of forensic laboratories and microscopic techniques. Since microscopic evidence is a large portion of forensic evidence, students should become accustomed to the use of microscopic tools in a laboratory setting. Specialized methods such as polarized light and stereomicroscopy are discussed, as well as the proper collection and analysis of evidence found through these methods.
So Now What?
Before deciding to explore a degree in Forensic Science, you have to understand what the degree will demand of you to learn about. Understanding a sample of potential theories you will learn about as well as the courses at each degree level to expect. Understanding all of these facets should help you make an informed decision on whether you feel comfortable moving forward in pursuing a forensic science degree online.