Forensic Trace Evidence


This module examines the value and limitations of selected trace evidence types in criminal investigations and considers the main trace evidence materials of glass, paint and fibres from the initial case assessment and laboratory analysis through to evaluation and presentation of trace evidence in court.


The aim of this Module is to provide an enhanced understanding of the evidential value of common trace evidence materials in criminal investigations through the development of an understanding of material composition together with the adoption of appropriate analytical and statistical processes.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this module the student should be able to:

1.  Predict & explain the composition of common trace evidence materials & understand the need for contamination avoidance & adoption of quality systems & processes within a trace evidence laboratory.

2.  Appraise and characterise the main trace evidence types.

3.   Appreciate traditional statistical techniques and typical difficulties and limitations encountered during trace evidence evaluation using both classical and Bayesian style approaches.

4.  Research, implement and manage correctly a range of analytical procedures appropriate to trace evidence analysis. Interpret and present the findings of laboratory trace evidence examinations.

Indicative Content

1 General Concepts of Trace Evidence:

Scope, recognition, recovery, case assessment, analysis, interpretation and presentation. Importance of discriminatory analytical methods, use of controls, sampling, reference materials, contamination avoidance, quality processes in the trace evidence laboratory, traceability, databases, frequency of occurrence, classical and Bayesian style interpretation and evaluation of evidence.

2 Composition and Properties of Common Trace Evidence Materials:

Composition, properties & where appropriate general processes used in the manufacture & colouring of glass/paints/manmade & natural fibres. Appreciation of different analytical processes appropriate to trace evidence examinations & some of the quality issues surrounding lab trace evidence exams. The use of groupings & t tests in the statistical analysis of data together with the limitations of such approaches & the use of continuous Bayesian style statistics in the evaluation of trace evidence.

3 Characterisation of Common Trace Evidence Materials:

Laboratory characterisation of glass, paints and fibres, use of various microscopic techniques in the comparison/discrimination of different trace evidence materials. Introduction to evidence interpretation and reporting of trace evidence laboratory casework; quality control, quality assurance, proficiency testing

Statement on Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Teaching methods include the use of lectorials, labs, case studies and formative assessment. Students are expected to undertake study outside the contact hours to reinforce and contextualise information previously introduced by reading additional material indicated by lecturers. The teaching methods used allow group working, communication and self-reflection opportunities for the students.

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Total 200
Lecture 24
Tutorial/Seminar 12
Supervised Practical Activity 18
Unsupervised Practical Activity 0
Assessment 70
Independent 76

Guidance notes

Credit Value – The total value of SCQF credits for the module. 20 credits are the equivalent of 10 ECTS credits. A full-time student should normally register for 60 SCQF credits per semester.


We make every effort to ensure that the information on our website is accurate but it is possible that some changes may occur prior to the academic year of entry. The modules listed in this catalogue are offered subject to availability during academic year 2019/10 , and may be subject to change for future years.