• Examines what forensic science is, how it is used in the investigation of crime, and the principles and processes of crime scene management
  • Considers how forensic science serves the criminal justice system and the challenges of communicating complex scientific evidence
  • Demonstrates the techniques that are used to recover evidence and the potential range of methods available for analysis
  • Highlights the importance of the discovery of DNA profiling by Sir Alec Jeffreys, the emergence of the DNA database, and the ethical issues relating to it

Forensic science is a subject of wide fascination. What happens at a crime scene? How does DNA profiling work? How can it help solve crimes that happened 20 years ago? 
In forensic science, a criminal case can often hinge on a piece of evidence such as a hair, a blood trace, half a footprint, or a tyre mark. High profile cases such as the Stephen Lawrence enquiry and the Madeleine McCann case have attracted enormous media attention and enhanced this interest in recent years. However, the public understanding of forensic science is poor, and largely based on TV shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which exploit high-tech imagery for dramatic effect. 
Forensic science is a complex activity at the interface of science and law. However, it also deals with real life issues and its results are interpreted within unique situations. Complex scientific findings must be considered carefully, dispassionately, and communicated with clarity, simplicity, and precision.
In this Very Short Introduction, Jim Fraser introduces the concept of forensic science and explains how it is used in the investigation of crime. He begins at the crime scene itself, explaining the principles and processes of crime scene management. He explores how forensic scientists work; from the reconstruction of events to laboratory examinations. He considers the techniques they use, such as fingerprinting, and goes on to highlight the immense impact DNA profiling has had. Providing examples from forensic science cases in the UK, US, and other countries, he considers the techniques and challenges faced around the world.
"This no-nosense guide is an admirable alternative to the CSI science fiction juggernaught. Jim Fraser discusses expert evidence, DNA, fingerprints and confirmation bias, mentioning the Birmingham 6 and Sir Roy Meadow, though not Shirley McKie's shameful persecution on the basis of supposedly infallible fingerprint evidence. Fascinating." - William Darragh, Fortean Times juggernaut...Fascinating.


1: What is forensic science?
2: Investigating crime
3: Crime scene management and forensic investigation
4: Laboratory examination - search, recovery, and analysis
5: DNA - identity, relationships, and databases
6: Prints and marks - more ways to identify people and things
7: Trace evidence
8: Drugs - identifying illicit substances
9: Science and justice
Afterword: concluding remarks and the future developments


Jim Fraser is Professor of Forensic Science and Director of the University of Strathclyde's Centre for Forensic Science. He was wide experience of both the practice and teaching of forensic science, and was the Head of Forensic Investigation for Kent police and Head of Forensic Biology for the Edinburgh police force.

Forensic science, with its connections to crime and detective work, is a subject of wide fascination. This Very Short Introduction looks at the nature of forensic science, how forensic scientists work, the different techniques involved, and the broader legal issues it raises.
Forensic Science


Jim Fraser





Forensic Science: A Very Short Introduction