Module details for 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.  Appraise and characterise the main trace evidence types.

2.  Predict & explain the composition of common trace evidence materials & understand the potential for contamination.

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

4.  Conduct and critically assess a range of laboratory analytical procedures appropriate to trace evidence analysis.

5.  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

Teaching and Learning Work Loads

Teaching and Learning Method Hours
Lecture 12
Tutorial/Seminar 12
Practical Activity 18
Assessment 70
Independent 88
Total 200

Guidance notes

SCQF Level - The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework provides an indication of the complexity of award qualifications and associated learning and operates on an ascending numeric scale from Levels 1-12 with SCQF Level 10 equating to a Scottish undergraduate Honours degree.

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 2021/22 , and may be subject to change for future years.