Vicky Newham

Introduction to Forensic Science course


Over the last six weeks I’ve been doing this free course run by FutureLearn and the University of Strathclyde. I have been interested in forensic science well before I started writing crime novels, and used to snaffle text books at school to see what the GCSE module covered.

I have been extremely impressed from the start by the content quality and supporting materials of this course. The videos are fabulous, and a transcript is provided of each one. These can be downloaded and either saved or printed, along with all of the other PDFs. For a free course, I really am staggered at how brilliant it is. I’ve mentioned it to quite a few people but honestly cannot recommend it highly enough if you are writing a police procedural or forensically orientated thingy. Or even if you aren’t – and are just interested in forensic science.

Initially I took notes on each video and then realised that it was less time consuming to print out the PDFs and then highlight and annotate them as I watched each video. Many of them I need to go back over as some are extremely detailed.

I thought it might be useful to outline what the six weeks cover. I am doing this now so that you can sign up for the next time the course runs. That said, I don’t think numbers are limited as there is no feedback or marking, so I think that FutureLearn allow an unlimited number of people to enrol – and without implications for the students. Hurrah.

In addition to videos, there are: case study material; supporting articles and reference materials; Google hangout discussions; and DIY opportunities to examine your own finger marks and foot prints. Hours of fun.

Some sections are heavy on the science. I really enjoyed these parts but you can always go for the broad brush approach if science isn’t your thing. The final week includes quite a bit on the philosophy of science, Popper & Kuhn etc., which I also enjoyed as it comes into psychology.

This is what each week covers:

Week 1 – what is forensic science and crime scene investigation? This includes a case study of an actual crime. How crime scenes are controlled, recorded, recovered and reconstructed. Who does what?

Week 2 – fingerprints and finger marks. Detection, enhancement, limitations. Reference back to the case study.

Week 3 – blood pattern analysis and DNA. Semen. Databases. Limitations. (Fairly detailed) Reference back to the case study.

Week 4 – footwear and tool mark evidence. Different types of firearm. Tyre marks.

Week 5 – drugs of abuse. Types of drugs. Natural. Semi-synthetic. Synthetic drugs. Identification. The law. Drug profiling. The case study.

Week 6 – more on the status of forensic science. Uses, limitations, potential and what science is. Reference back to the case study. The evidence. The trial.

The course blurb suggests that you can cover the work in three hours a week. There is a lot to take in each week, so I didn’t find that I could do the whole three hours in one go but their guide probably isn’t far off.


Vicky Newham © 2015

Author: Vicky Newham

Vicky Newham is a writer, living in Whitstable, Kent. She writes crime fiction, psychological thrillers and science fiction. Her main projects are novels, but she also writes short stories, flash fiction, non-fiction articles and some poetry.

4 thoughts on “Introduction to Forensic Science course

  1. FutureLearn do some wonderful courses – I’ve done quite a few, particularly modern history. Although I did it at Uni – they concentrated on areas I wasn’t familiar with. It’s a great resource. Good idea re printing out the DOGs – thanks for the tip!

    • Hi Linda,

      I keep looking at the FutureLearn website and finding new courses which look interesting. Their content is tremendous. I find it takes me longer than a couple of hours a week thought to watch the videos and read all the material. I try to view them as my relaxation activity but this often means I am tired and then fall asleep while watching stuff. I’m doing one at the moment on ‘What is the mind?’. Very interesting.

  2. Sounds fantastic. Might have a go in a few months when my workload eases.

I would love to know what you think ...

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