This course will focus on the basic principles and uses of forensic science in the American system of justice. It covers crime scene investigation, collection and categorization of physical evidence, the physical properties of glass and soil, instrumental analysis, hair, fiber and plant evidence, forensic serology, arson evidence, DNA evidence, fingerprints, tool and firearm marks, and document and voice analysis. Students will gain a basic understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the forensic sciences as they are presently practiced. This course cannot be used towards science concentrations. (3 credits)
Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)
Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:
- Understand the fundamentals of forensic science and be able to describe in writing, forensic science's role in the larger criminal justice system.
- Understand and be able to list and discuss the responsibilities and procedures of persons conducting forensic examinations of crime scenes.
- Understand the different broad categories of physical evidence and have the ability to match and discuss the best analytical techniques to each physical evidence category. The student will appreciate the different roles of each broad category of evidence in the deductive process of solving crimes.
- Describe in writing how forensic science is being applied to new types of evidentiary material such as DNA and computers and analyze the ramifications on scientific, ethical and privacy issues.
- Discuss and evaluate a topic in forensic science, research and analyze that topic further and produce a cogent research paper on the subject.
Course Activities and Grading
Discussions (Weeks 1-8)
Quizzes (Weeks 2 & 6)
Midterm Exam (Week 4)
Research Paper (Week 7)
Available through Charter Oak's online bookstore
- Saferstein, Richard. Criminalistics: An introduction to Forensic Science. 13th ed. Pearson Rentals, 2021. ISBN-13: 978-0-13-521831-0 [Print Rental] or ISBN-13: 978-0-13-526841-4 [Digital]
- In addition to the text book there will be scholarly articles and technical informational material posted to the class web site. The class site will also feature several Power Point presentations, streaming media and hyperlinks to other sources of information about forensic science as well as a glossary.
Readings and Exercises
Topic: Introduction: The Crime Scene
Topics: Physical Evidence, Crime Scene Reconstruction and Death Investigation
Topics: Fingerprints, Forensic Biometrics, the Microscope
Topics: Firearms, Tool Marks and Other Impressions, Matter, Light and Glass, Hairs and Fibers
Midterm Exam (Due Sunday 11:59pm EST)
Topics: Drugs & Forensic Toxicology
Topic: Metals, Paint and Soil, Serology, DNA
Topic: Forensic Aspect of Fire and Explosion Investigation, Document Examination
Topic: Computer Forensics, Mobile Device Forensics
Final Exam (Due Sunday 11:59pm EST)
COSC Accessibility Statement
Charter Oak State College encourages students with disabilities, including non-visible disabilities such as chronic diseases, learning disabilities, head injury, attention deficit/hyperactive disorder, or psychiatric disabilities, to discuss appropriate accommodations with the Office of Accessibility Services at OAS@charteroak.edu.
COSC Policies, Course Policies, Academic Support Services and Resources
Students are responsible for knowing all Charter Oak State College (COSC) institutional policies, course-specific policies, procedures, and available academic support services and resources. Please see COSC Policies for COSC institutional policies, and see also specific policies related to this course. See COSC Resources for information regarding available academic support services and resources.