FNSC2200 Mysteries of Forensic Science

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 2UWA (Perth)Multi-mode
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 core unit in the Criminology major sequence
  • Level 2 option in the Archaeology major sequence
  • The area of knowledge for this unit is Society and Culture
  • Category B broadening unit for students
  • Level 2 elective
This unit introduces students to the application of science to a key public area—solving crime. Students experience the contextual application of each discipline to problem solving in forensic case work. Forensic science is the application of scientific principles and scientific disciplines to the investigation of criminal acts. The role of a forensic scientist is to present objective evidence and opinions that will assist the court with their deliberation process. Unit content covers the skills and analysis techniques used in modern forensic science encompassing crime scene protocols and evidence evaluation. The unit calls on the State's leading forensic experts including the Western Australian police forensic section. The lectures and practicals combine a broad view of the application of analytical skills in science with a continuing focus on crime solving. The handling of evidence involves both legal and ethical issues and these matters are raised and considered throughout the course content.
Students are able to (1) describe the various forensic science disciplines, and how they can be applied to the investigation of crime; (2) appreciate the importance of ethical considerations in forensic science; (3) use the language of forensic science in an appropriate legal context; (4) apply concepts learned in forensic science to problem solving; (5) recognise the overlap of forensic science with other scientific and humanitarian disciplines; (6) appreciate the diversity of forensic science in the modern global context, with specific reference to Australia; and (7) develop and apply skills in critical thinking and describe the interplay between science and the law.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) a two-hour examination; (2) continuous assessment (lab reports); and (3) continuous assessment (quizzes). Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Daniel Franklin and Ambika Flavel
Unit rules
Advisable prior study:
a background in biological or social sciences
Contact hours
lectures released online (2 hours / week); laboratories 8 x 2 hours

The recommended text book is not a compulsory purchase. Hard copies can be borrowed from the Science Library (closed reserve) or students can access the online version via the UWA Library system (student log-on credentials are required).

Houck, M. M and Siegel, J. A. Fundamentals of Forensic Science, 2nd edn: Oxford Academic Press 2010

Additional Information Sources:

More information can be found in the following textbooks which are available in closed reserve in the Science library:

Goff, M. L. A Fly for the Prosecution: How Insect Evidence Helps Solve Crimes: Harvard University Press 2001

Haglund, W. D. and Sorg, M. H. eds Forensic Taphonomy: the Post-mortem Fate of Human Remains: Boca Raton CRC Press 1996

Hunter, J., Roberts, C. and Martin, A. eds Studies in Crime: an Introduction to Forensic Archaeology: Batsford 1996

Freckelton, I. The Trial of the Expert: a Study of Expert Evidence and Forensic Experts: Oxford University Press 1987

Rathburn, T. A. and Buikstra, J. E. eds Human Identification: Case Studies in Forensic Anthropology: Charles C Thomas Pub Ltd 1987

Saferstein, R. Criminalistics: an Introduction to Forensic Science, 7th edn: Prentice Hall 2000

  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Books and other material wherever listed may be subject to change. Book lists relating to 'Preliminary reading', 'Recommended reading' and 'Textbooks' are, in most cases, available via the Booktopia Textbook Finder, which has the functionality to search by course code, course, ISBN and title, and may also be posted or available at the appropriate school's administrative offices. Where texts are listed in the unit description above, an asterisk (*) indicates that the book is available in paperback.