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Forensic Sciences

Course Code: CRIM 4480
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Criminology
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course explores the basic concepts and the main areas of forensic science. It will examine the use and interpretation of physical forensic evidence in court. It will evaluate the major forensic sciences currently used in criminal investigations, as well crime scene procedures. Topics examined may include anthropology, fingerprints, biology including serology and DNA, trace evidence, toxicology, firearms and tool mark evidence, questioned documents, and computer forensics.

Course Content

  1. Introduction to Forensic Science
  2. Introduction to Death Investigations
  3. Identification of Human Remains
  4. Determining Time of Death  including Decompositional Stages
  5. Forensic Taphonomy
  6. The Crime Scene
  7. Fingerprints
  8. Firearms and Tool Mark Examination
  9. Forensic Biology including DNA
  10. Forensic Serology
  11. Trace Evidence
  12. Fire and Explosion Investigation
  13. Forensic Toxicology
  14. Document Examination
  15. Computer Forensics

Methods of Instruction

The course will employ a variety of instructional methods to accomplish its objectives, including some of the following: 

  • lectures
  • audio visual aids
  • hands-on exercises
  • small group discussions

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College Policy.  The instructor will provide written course outlines with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester.  Evaluation will be based on some of the following:  exams, term paper, class participation, and assigned ‘in-class’ tasks.

An example of an evaluation scheme would be:

Midterm  25%
Term paper  25%
Participation         20%
Final exam  30%
Total 100%

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course the successful student will be able to:    

  1. Explain the basic concepts and fundamental principles of forensic science
  2. Discuss some of the major rules of evidence in Canada
  3. Explain class and individual evidence and its significance
  4. Discuss the methods used to determine age, sex, and ancestry
  5. Differentiate between tentative and positive identification methods
  6. Explain the importance of ‘estimating’ time since death
  7. Evaluate the methods of estimation of time since death in the early post-mortem, later post-mortem, and days or months after death
  8. Describe the sequence of events at a crime scene including the processing of the evidence
  9. Explain the value of fingerprint evidence
  10. Explain  the legal and judicial role the coroner plays in death investigations
  11. Describe the types of examinations performed in the biology section of the crime lab
  12. Discuss the important characteristics, collection procedures, analytical tests, and limitations for each sample (hair, blood, semen, DNA, mtDNA)
  13. Explain the Locard’s Exchange Principle and how it relates to trace evidence and crime scene investigation procedures
  14. Describe the types of examinations performed in the chemistry section of the crime lab
  15. Explain the dual role of the toxicologist: analyzing and quantifying toxins and interpreting this information for the investigation
  16. Evaluate the common toxicological specimens (blood, urine, hair)
  17. Discuss the class and individual characteristics produced by the manufacture of tools that allows for the identification of a ‘tool’
  18. Explain why firearm identification is considered an extension of basic tool mark examination
  19. Describe parts of the gun that can produce both individual and class characteristics
  20. Discuss how gunshot residue analysis can be used to reconstruct a shooting
  21. Explain the three main areas of document examination
  22. Describe the comparisons and analyses the questioned document examiner performs
  23. Discuss factors that can affect handwriting comparisons
  24. Distinguish between disguise and simulation
  25. Describe how printing and typing machines, ink and paper can be evidence and discuss the analysis
  26. Discuss alterations of documents after their production

course prerequisites

CRIM 1160

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.