• The Open University

Investigating a Murder with Forensic Psychology

Experience what it’s like to be a detective in a murder investigation as you learn how psychology can help crack the case.

919 enrolled on this course

Investigating a Murder with Forensic Psychology

Explore applied psychology in the context of a criminal case

Psychology plays an important role in police enquiries. It can help build rapport, plan interviews, detect deception, and understand cognitive bias.

On this four-week course, you’ll explore the way suspects are dealt with during a police investigation and how psychology can help the police with their enquiries.

This immersive and engaging short course will showcase applied psychology in a highly interesting context.

Take on the role of detective to investigate a murder

You’ll become a detective investigating a murder as you join two fictional detectives working alongside a senior investigating officer.

This complex criminal case has been carefully written to be realistic by a team of academic and policing practitioner experts.

Understand the psychological skills of building rapport and identifying cognitive bias

You’ll delve into the psychological skills that can help police in an investigation. You’ll learn how to spot a liar, how to establish rapport, the impact of cognitive bias, and how to plan an interview.

This will also include investigating falses confessions and developing and assessing an interview plan.

Learn from the experts at The Open University

This interactive course has been created by the experts at The Open University’s Centre for Policing Research and Learning, and Forensic Cognition Research Group.

You’ll learn from the specialists with a well-established network of policing practitioners.


  • Week 1

    Introduction to the case

    • Welcome to the course

      Meet the academics who created the course and discover the fictional detectives who have inspired them. (© The Open University)

    • The investigation timeline

      The Senior Investigating Officer briefs you on what is known of the crime so far and you begin to create your own timeline for the investigation. (© The Open University)

    • The initial witness interview

      Meet the investigating officers and evaluate the initial witness interview they conduct. (© The Open University)

    • Detecting a deception

      Explore the psychological theories and research on detecting deception and test your own lie-detection skills. (© b-d-s/ iStock / Getty Images Plus)

    • New witness statements

      The investigative team brief the SIO about new evidence revealed through additional witness statements. (© The Open University)

  • Week 2

    Suspect interviews and establishing rapport

    • Introducing police suspect interviews

      This week will look at some of the psychology behind police suspect interviews, and will consider how such interviews can be examples of difficult conversations. (© The Open University)

    • The importance of rapport

      The importance of rapport and respectful communication as part of the interpersonal dynamics of interviewing will be considered. (© The Open University)

    • DI Bullet interviews Neale

      You will observe the suspect interview of Neale Anderson, and apply your new knowledge regarding rapport to this particular interaction. (© The Open University)

  • Week 3


    • How reliable are confessions in criminal investigations?

      Return to the investigation and consider the impact that interviewing techniques might have on the suspect. (© The Open University)

    • Interrogation, suggestibility and false confessions

      Look at the dangers of using interrogation techniques, including how they can lead to a suspect confessing to a crime they did not commit. (© Pichsakul Promrungsee/ 123 Royalty Free)

    • Evaluating DI Bullet’s suspect interview

      Consider the interviewing techniques employed by DI Bullet and what psychological issues it may have led to. (© The Open University)

    • New evidence and new suspects

      The team obtain new evidence, which leads them to consider new lines of enquiry and new suspects, but which should they prioritise? (© digicomphoto/ iStock / Getty Images Plus)

  • Week 4

    Conclusion to the case

    • Dealing with the new suspect

      Mick Brough has been arrested and is in the custody suite. You will think about the evidence that incriminates this suspect and plan for the interview. (© The Open University)

    • Interviewing the new suspect

      You will prepare for and observe the interview of the new suspect, applying what you have learned about the principles of rapport. (© The Open University)

    • Assessment of the suspect interview and case closure

      You will reflect on the interview and compare your reflections with other learners and the expert team. You will also see how the case resolves. (© The Open University)

    • Course wrap up

      Course wrap up. (© Constantine_pappas/ iStock / Getty Images Plus)

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Synthesise and apply psychological knowledge regarding detecting deception
  • Develop and assess an interview plan
  • Apply a psychological model of rapport to suspect interviews
  • Investigate false confessions
  • Identify potential forms of cognitive bias in investigations
  • Apply psychological research to a simulated case study

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in policing careers, psychology, or the law.

It may also be beneficial for those interested in writing crime fiction.

Who will you learn with?

Zoë is a psychologist with an interest in how psychology relates to police investigations. She is a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology and Counselling at the Open University

Graham is a psychologist & Professor of Forensic Cognition at the OU, with an interest in applied cognition, particularly how psychological knowledge can be used to obtain evidence from eyewitnesses

Who developed the course?

The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

  • Established

  • Location

    Milton Keynes, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

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Billed at $279.99 for a year

Endless possibilities!

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  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

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*FutureLearn considers a short course complete when a learner has engaged with 90% of the content. For enrolments to short courses with the possibility of Upgrade in the year of 2020, enrolments with an Upgrade are completed 5.31 times as often as enrolments with basic access

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