Studying online

There are now 2 possible online modes for units:

Units with modes Online timetabled and Online flexible are available for any student to self-enrol and study online.

Click on an offering mode for more details.

Unit Overview


This unit is delivered by competent forensic professionals. The lecture topics covered include (1) an introduction to chemical analysis—basic principles of analytical chemistry and terminology; (2) sampling and sample preparation—principles of sampling schemes, how to decide on sampling methods, numbers etc.; (3) instrumentation—types of instruments used, how they work and what they can be used for, strengths and weaknesses of various instruments and applications in specific analytical regimes; (4) analysis of physical evidence—sampling, preparation and analysis of various types of physical evidence; (5) geochemistry and geology—basic principles of geology and geochemistry as related to provenance establishment of dusts and soil samples; (6) soil science—structure of soils, composition, diagenesis, use and abuse of soil evidence; (7) food and organic matrices—analysis of organic matrices and interpretation of analytical data; (8) GLP, QA and QC, method validation; (9) chemometrics and statistics—appropriate use of statistics and chemometrics in the interpretation of scene-of-crime chemical evidence; (10) taphonomy—decomposition, post-mortem transport, burial, compaction, and other chemical and physical activity which affects the remains of an organism; and (11) data interpretation—what can and cannot be said about chemical data in a courtroom. The practicals include (1) physical evidence—deciphering mixed evidence, its analysis and data interpretation; (2) soils—field collection and analysis and relation to crime scene; and (3) environmental—field collection and analysis of environmental samples to determine provenance.

6 points

Students are able to (1) understand the role and scope of modern analytical chemistry techniques in forensic science and their relative appropriateness to crime solving; (2) develop a problem solving practical approach to chemical forensics; (3) analyse and interpret analytical chemical data in the context of a forensic science based investigation; (4) apply statistical and chemometrical techniques to the interpretation of chemical data; (5) understand the role of geological and pedological processes in the development of soil types and the interpretation for soil-based data in the context of an investigation; (6) understand the relationship of soil and environment to physical and chemical taphonomy; (7) understand the relationship between soil, climate and agricultural practices to the development of specific elemental fingerprints in the determination of provenance of food and drugs; and (8) understand the concept of inter-elemental and inter-isotopic fingerprints in the interpretation of chemical data and provenance determination of scene-of-crime evidence.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) a literature-based research project (written report) on a specific application of forensic chemistry to crime-scene investigation (20 per cent); (2) a presentation of this work in a seminar on the subject to be graded by peer review and supervisor review (10 per cent); (3) a laboratory report on a field work exercise (10 per cent); (4) a laboratory report on a laboratory-based exercise (10 per cent); and (5) a two-hour written examination (50 per cent). Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Daniel Franklin
Unit rules
FNSC8551 Instrumentation (Chemical Instrumentation), FNSC8552 Soils and Taphonomy
Contact hours
lectures: 1–2 hours per week
labs: 1–2 hours per week
field work: a full-day field trip
  • 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.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.