module specification

CH6058 - Forensic Chemistry (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Forensic Chemistry
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Human Sciences
Total study hours 150
36 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
114 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
In-Course Test 15%   Progress Test 1 (30 minute)
Coursework 50%   Case Study Report (1500 words)
Unseen Examination 35%   Examination (1 hour)
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Spring semester North Friday Afternoon

Module summary

This module will look at advanced analytical methodology for detecting chemical substances in evidence taken from crime scenes and from ante or post mortem samples taken from human bodies. The module will also look at the chemical processes occurring explosive processes.

Prior learning requirements

CH4002 and CH5007

Module aims

The module aims to Illustrate how a range of techniques for determining the presence of an element or compound in a specified sample may be applied to forensic samples; It will describe the theoretical background and instrumental requirements for these techniques, where appropriate. Specifically, it will examine a range of techniques for surface analysis and their application in forensics. It will also review the kinetics of combustion reactions and the implications of this in fires and explosions and explain the importance of the chemical structure in explosive compounds
The module will also aim to provide students with the ability to articulate the difference between presumptive and confirmatory testing of chemical substances.


Drugs of abuse:  Structures, metabolism and methods of analysis.
Paint samples: Composition and matching.
Glasses: methods for characterisation of different glass types.
Fires: kinetics of combustion and characterisation of combustion products
Explosions: kinetics of explosions and analysis of residues, to include gunshot residues.
Colorimetric reactions (chromogenic and lumogenic) and their use in presumptive testing.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered by a variety of methods. Theoretical material will be introduced via a programme of lectures (20 h) and tutorials (10 h). This will be reinforced by the use of a range of case-studies which will illustrate the application of the principles introduced in the lectures. The case-studies will be looked at in seminar sessions (6 h) and also in a directed fashion by the students alone (30 h). Material will be provided in the VLE for the module, students will be expected to review the material outside the timetabled classes (15 h).

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
1. Structurally analyse a molecule to describe its properties and evaluate the most effective
analytical methods to establish the level of the molecule present in a given sample.
2. Critically analyse the processes ocurring in a fire or explosion  and evaluate, from evidence, the reasonsfor its initiation. 
3. Evaluate the use of spot tests to provide an indication of the presence of specified
materials at a crime scene.
4. Give a critical account of how microscopic examination of a surface can provide chemical data  and use this to infer the presence of gunshot residues.
5. Design appropriate methods of analysis for prescription drugs and drugs of abuse.

Assessment strategy

The assessment will be split between time constrained assessments –  a progress test  (30 min) and an end of module examination  (1 h) which will assess the theoretical knowledge and the problem-solving ability of the students and a report on a case study which will develop communication skills and assess the students’ ability to apply the information provided in the module in a forensic context.
To pass the module, students need to achieve a minimum aggregate mark of 40%.  There will be an attendance requirement for the practical sessions. If the module is passed on reassessment, then the maximum mark awarded will be 40%.

Assignment Learning Outcomes
Progress Test 1 1, 2
Case Study Report 1, 2, 3, 4
Examination 1, 4, 5 Examination 1, 4, 5



Akhavan, J. (2004) The Chemistry of Explosives. 2nd Ed. Royal Society of Chemistry, London.
Bayne, S. and Carlin, M. (2010) Forensic Applications of High Performance Liquid Chromatography. CRC Press.
Heard, B.J. (2008) Handbook of Firearms and Ballistics: Examining and Interpreting Forensic Evidence. Wiley-Blackwell
Jackson, A. and Jackson, J. (2007) Forensic Science. 2nd ed. Prentice Hall.
Langford, A. Dean, J. Reed, R. Holmes, D. Weyers, J. and Jones, A. (2010)  Practical Skills in Forensic Science. Prentice Hall.