What is Forensic Science

Here’s the scoop on real Forensic Science!

Many of us are interested in the exciting and developing field of forensic science. This is, in part, due to the sensationalized television shows which feature forensic science and crime scene investigation. Such shows are intended as entertainment only and are not designed to educate the public about the science itself or the genuine careers available in the field. However, whether accurate or not, many of us derive a great deal of information and ‘common knowledge’ from television and it is clear from discussions with people of all ages that there are a number of misconceptions surrounding the field of forensic science.

So what is forensic science? Derived from the Latin term forensis which means a public debate or discussion, forensics in the modern sense implies courts of law. Forensic Science is therefore the application of science, and the scientific method to the judicial system. The important word here is science. A forensic scientist will not only be analyzing and interpreting evidence but also challenged in court while providing expert witness testimony.

Forensic science (often shortened to forensics) is used to enforce laws and government regulations and statutes, to resolve disputes, to assess blame and establish responsibility, and to improve public safety. Because science is now used routinely in litigation, various groups, including lawyers, judges, enforcement officials, and the public, need to know what forensic science can and cannot do.

Forensic scientists use cutting-edge scientific techniques to examine and interpret evidence in connection with civil and criminal proceedings. In criminal law, forensics science can help prove the guilt or innocence of the defendant. In civil actions, forensics can help resolve a broad spectrum of legal issues through the identification, analysis and evaluation of physical evidence.

Forensic science draws upon a variety of scientific disciplines, including biology, physics and chemistry.

The field of forensic science covers:

  • Document examination
  • DNA analysis
  • Electronic/digital media
  • Fingerprinting
  • Autopsy techniques
  • Engineering
  • Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Pathology
  • Economics
  • Accounting
  • Entomology
  • Toxicology

The traditional disciplines of forensic science include:

  • Toxicology (study of alcohol and drugs)
  • Serology (study of blood and other biological fluids)
  • Questioned document examination (examination of documents, handwriting comparison, study of inks, typewriter imprints, counterfeiting etc.)
  • Chemistry
  • Firearms identification and ballistics (study of marks and striations on bullets)
  • Hair and fibre analysis
  • Pathology
  • Odontology (study of bite marks, teeth structure)
  • Anthropology and the determination of a biological profile

Other specialties include, but is not limited to the following:

  • Disaster identification (e.g., identifying bodies, and cause of death)
  • Analysis of lip prints (cheiloscopy)
  • Meteorology (impact of weather on a case)
  • Bloodstain pattern identification
  • Voice print analysis
  • Geology
  • Botany
  • Nursing
  • Psychiatry and Behavioral Science
  • Biometrics
  • Entomology
  • Taphonomy