Outline of forensic science

Outline of forensic science

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to forensic science:

Forensic science – application of a broad spectrum of sciences to answer questions of interest to a legal system. This may be in relation to a crime or a civil action. The term is often shortened to forensics.


Nature of forensic science

General forensics topics include:

  • Crime – breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority (via mechanisms such as legal systems) can ultimately prescribe a conviction.
  • Crime scene – location where an illegal act took place, and comprises the area from which most of the physical evidence is retrieved by trained law enforcement personnel, crime scene investigators (CSIs) or in rare circumstances, forensic scientists.
  • CSI effect – phenomenon of popular television shows such as the CSI franchise raising the public's expectations of forensic science,[1] stemming from the "dramatic license" taken by the shows' writers in which they exaggerate the abilities of forensic science,[2][3] and this is of particular concern in the courtroom setting, where many prosecutors feel pressured to deliver more forensic evidence.[4][5]

Forensic methodologies

  • Forensic accounting – study and interpretation of accounting evidence.
  • Forensic animation
  • Forensic anthropology – application of physical anthropology in a legal setting, usually for the recovery and identification of skeletonized human remains.
  • Forensic archaeology – application of a combination of archaeological techniques and forensic science, typically in law enforcement.
  • Forensic arts – artistic techniques used in the identification, apprehension, or conviction of wanted persons.
  • Forensic astronomy – determines past celestial constellations for forensic purposes, using methods from astronomy.
  • Bloodstain pattern analysis – draws on the scientific disciplines of biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics to ascertain the details and sequence of events of a crime, including the area of origin of an impact pattern, and movement of persons or objects after bloodshed, etc.
  • Forensic botany – study of plant life in order to gain information regarding possible crimes.
  • Forensic chemistry – study of detection and identification of illicit drugs, accelerants used in arson cases, explosive and gunshot residue.
  • Computational forensics concerns the development of algorithms and software to assist forensic examination.
  • Criminalistics – analysis of physical evidence in criminal investigations. Applies various sciences to answer questions relating to examination and comparison of biological evidence, trace evidence, impression evidence (such as fingerprints, footwear impressions, and tire tracks), controlled substances, ballistics, firearm and toolmark examination, and other evidence in criminal investigations. In typical circumstances, evidence is processed in a crime lab.
  • Digital forensics – application of proven scientific methods and techniques in order to recover data from electronic / digital media. Digital Forensic specialists work in the field as well as in the lab.
    • Mobile device forensics – scientific examination, and evaluation of evidences found in Mobile Phone, e.g. Call History, Deleted SMS etc., also include SIM Card Forensics
  • Forensic document examination or questioned document examination answers questions about a disputed document using a variety of scientific processes and methods. Many examinations involve a comparison of the questioned document, or components of the document, to a set of known standards. The most common type of examination involves handwriting wherein the examiner tries to address concerns about potential authorship.
  • Forensic economics – the study and interpretation of economic damage evidence to include present day calculations of lost earnings and benefits, lost earnings and profits, etc.
  • Forensic engineering – scientific examination and analysis of structures and products relating to their failure or cause of damage.
  • Forensic entomology deals with the examination of insects in, on, and around human remains to assist in determination of time or location of death. It is also possible to determine if the body was moved after death.
  • Forensic geology deals with trace evidence in the form of soils, minerals and petroleum.
  • Forensic limnology – analysis of evidence collected from crime scenes in or around fresh water sources. Examination of biological organisms, in particular, diatoms, can be useful in connecting suspects with victims.
  • Forensic linguistics – deals with issues in the legal system that requires linguistic expertise.
  • Forensic meteorology is a site specific analysis of past weather conditions for a point of loss.
  • Forensic odontology – study of the uniqueness of teeth, mainly for the purpose of corpse identification
  • Forensic optometry – study of glasses and other eye wear relating to crime scenes and criminal investigations
  • Forensic pathology is a field in which the principles of medicine and pathology are applied to determine a cause of death or injury in the context of a legal inquiry.
  • Forensic photography – the art of producing an accurate photographic reproduction of a crime scene to aid investigations and court proceedings.
  • Forensic profiling –
  • Forensic psychiatry – the two main areas of criminal evaluations in forensic psychiatry are evaluating a defendant's competency to stand trial (CST) and determining a defendant's mental state at the time of the offense (MSO).
  • Forensic psychology – study of the mind of an individual, using forensic methods. Usually it determines the circumstances behind a criminal's behavior.
  • Forensic seismology – study of techniques to distinguish the seismic signals generated by underground nuclear explosions from those generated by earthquakes.
  • Forensic serology – study of the body fluids.[7]
  • Forensic video analysis – scientific examination, comparison, and evaluation of video in legal matters.

History of forensic science

Main article: History of forensic science

By period

  • Forensics in antiquity –

By subject


Forensic tools


Forensic practitioners

Forensic science in popular culture

See also


  1. ^ N. J. Schweitzer and Michael J. Saks The CSI Effect: Popular Fiction About Forensic Science Affects Public Expectations About Real Forensic Science. Jurimetrics, Spring 2007
  2. ^ Justis, Gregory G. (2006). Images of Legitimacy: Presentation of Forensics Programming in Contemporary News Publications. Michigan State University
  3. ^ Simon Cole and Rachel Dioso-Villa CSI and its Effects: Media, Juries and the Burden of Proof New England Law Review, Vol. 41, No. 3, 2007.
  4. ^ Mann, Michael D. (2006). "The 'CSI Effect': Better Jurors through Television and Science?". Buffalo Public Interest Law Journal. http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=michael_mann. 
  5. ^ Donald E. Sheldon, Young S. Kim and Gregg Barak A Study of Juror Expectations and Demands Concerning Scientific Evidence: Does the 'CSI Effect' Exist? Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment & Technology Law
  6. ^ Kopel, David B. (2008). "Ballistic fingerprints". In Ayn Embar-seddon, Allan D. Pass (eds.). Forensic Science. Salem Press. pp. 109. ISBN 978-1587654237. 
  7. ^ "Forensic serology". Forensic-medecine.info. http://www.forensic-medecine.info/forensic-serology.html. Retrieved 2010-06-08. 
  8. ^ Ask Dr. Baden. HBO. URL: http://www.hbo.com/autopsy/baden/bio.html. Accessed on: April 8, 2008.

External links

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