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Crime & punishment: Five forensic science courses for armchair detectives

If you’ve ever wanted to be a detective, now is your chance. From unravelling the clues of cold cases to solving murders, these five courses will have you sleuthing like a pro in no time.

Forensic science expert gathers research on criminal case

It’s autumn – aka crime drama season. If you’ve always fancied yourself a bit of an amateur detective, here are five online forensics courses to boost your knowledge and help you catch fictional criminals. You could be the next Morse or Reacher…

The rise of true crime and crime dramas

The rise of true crime and crime dramas in recent years has been nothing short of meteoric. Thanks to shows like Making a Murderer, The Staircase, and Serial, alongside the explosion of true crime podcasts, the genre has never been more popular.

In many ways, these fascinating programmes offer a unique insight into the criminal justice system, providing a behind-the-scenes look at how investigations are conducted and trials are run. They also offer a glimpse into the minds of both criminals and victims, giving us an understanding of why people commit crimes.

>> Explore our range of online criminology degrees

What is forensic science?

Forensic science is the application of scientific knowledge to solve crimes. It can be divided into several subfields, each of which uses a different set of techniques. For example, forensic anthropology uses skeletal remains to identify victims and determine the cause of death.

Forensic biologists use DNA analysis to identify suspects and link them to crime scenes. Meanwhile, forensic chemists use their knowledge of chemicals to analyse evidence and identify unknown substances.

In recent years, forensic science has undergone a major transformation, thanks to advances in technology. DNA analysis, for example, is now routinely used to solve previously unsolvable crimes, also known as cold cases.

As a result, forensic science has become an invaluable tool for law enforcement and an essential part of the criminal justice system. 

Professor Sue Black, Forensic Expert at the University of Dundee, explains that by studying forensics, people could not only delve into the fascinating world of forensic science, but it could also help them understand more about real-life investigations and trials, which could become helpful in the future. She says, If people find themselves in a courtroom – as any member of the public could do – they might just know which questions they should be asking.”

What about forensic psychology?

Forensic psychology is the study of the human mind in relation to the legal system. It applies psychological principles and methods to criminal investigation and law enforcement, in order to better understand criminals and their behaviour.

By understanding how criminals think, forensic psychologists are able to assist law enforcement in tracking down and catching them. Forensic psychology became popularised by shows like Monk and Castle

Forensic psychologists can also help to improve the criminal justice system by making recommendations about things like sentencing and rehabilitation. They may also be involved in research on topics such as eyewitness memory, jury decision-making, and false confessions.

Ultimately, forensic psychology is a field that is both fascinating and complex, and offers a unique perspective on the workings of the human mind. Looking for a quick challenge to test yourself? Have a go at this forensic psychology challenge.

How are forensics used in criminal cases?

Forensics play an important role in the criminal justice system. They can be used to help identify a suspect and link them to a crime scene. They can also be used to collect and preserve evidence, which can be used to prove or disprove a theory about what happened.

In some cases, forensics can even be used to reconstruct a crime scene, providing crucial information about what occurred. As such, forensics is an essential tool for conviction. Why not explore how fingerprints are used in criminal cases with this crime scene garage video case study?

Why is true crime so popular?

People are fascinated by the process of solving crimes and by the intricate web of clues that can lead to a successful resolution. True crime and crime dramas offer us a chance to play armchair detective, piecing together the evidence and trying to solve the case before the police.

They also satisfy our curiosity about the dark side of human nature. Think you could be the next great detective? Take this fun “could you be a CSI” quiz to find out!

An age of great crime dramas

There was a time not so long ago when the only place to see a crime drama was on the big screen. Films like The Godfather, Scarface, and Goodfellas were classics of the genre, offering a gritty and realistic portrayal of the criminal underworld.

In recent years, television has taken over as the preferred medium for crime dramas, with shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad, and True Detective becoming global hits. TV shows allow for a greater focus on character development, giving us a deeper understanding of both criminals and victims.

As authors work with crime experts and practitioners in the field, the line between fiction and reality has become increasingly blurred. Crime author, Val McDermid, explains, “My responsibility to myself and to my art requires me to be properly investigative about the things I write, and to reflect the real world rather than reflecting the way that I think the world ought to be”.

You can join Val McDermid for a Q&A about the relationship between crime writers and forensic practitioners to explore this further.

Become an expert detective

If you’re interested in learning more about forensic psychology and the criminal justice system, take one of our fascinating courses. From the basics of forensic science to the complex world of criminal profiling, you’ll have the chance to explore forensics in depth.

Our courses will also teach you how to think like a detective – analysing evidence and solving crimes. So, if you’re fascinated by true crime and want to develop your investigative skills, a detective course could be the perfect option for you.

Five forensics courses to brush up your detective skills

Ready to start your journey into the world of crime and punishment? Here are five courses that can help you develop your skills and knowledge.

1. Forensic Psychology: Witness Investigation by The Open University

Delve into the fascinating field of forensic psychology and discover how to conduct a successful witness interview. This gripping course explores how psychology contributes to police investigations and prevents wrongful convictions.

You’ll learn how to use nothing but eyewitness testimony to build a case and secure a conviction, and how to avoid the pitfalls that can lead to a miscarriage of justice. If you’re interested in learning more about how psychology can be used to investigate crime, this is the course for you.

2. Introduction to Criminology by the University of Hull

Criminology is the study of crime and criminals, which makes it the perfect place to start if you’re interested in learning more about the criminal justice system. This comprehensive course will introduce you to the expanding field of criminology, examining how it draws from sociology, psychology, law enforcement, and forensics.

From exploring the major theoretical approaches to crime to learning about the different types of crimes that are committed, you’ll get a well-rounded understanding of all things criminology.

3. Investigating a Murder with Forensic Psychology by The Open University

In this fascinating course, you’ll explore how psychologists contribute to murder investigations, from conducting witness interviews to evaluating evidence.

This is an essential course for anyone interested in pursuing a career in forensic psychology or working in the criminal justice system. It’s also great for curious minds looking to understand more about human behaviour and psychology — from identifying deceptive behaviour to understanding why people commit murder.

4. From Crime to Punishment: an Introduction to Criminal Justice by the University of York

This introductory course will introduce you to the criminal justice system in England and Wales, from crime scene to courtroom. You’ll learn about the different actors involved in the system, from police officers and prosecutors to judges and juries.

You’ll also explore the various stages of the criminal justice process, including investigation, arrest, sentencing and punishment. By the end of the course, you’ll have a good understanding of how the system works and how it deals with crime. To learn more, why not watch this video animation of the sentencing process?

5. Introduction to Psychology ExpertTrack by Monash University

Psychology constitutes a big part of forensic science and greatly assists detectives in their work. Having a detailed understanding of how the human mind works can help you to think like a detective, and this course will give you just that.

You’ll explore the major theories and approaches in psychology, from Freudian psychoanalysis to principles of perception. If you’re considering a career in psychology or want to work in the criminal justice system, this will give you a great foundation to build on. Interested? Take a look at these 10 top courses for careers in psychology.

Final thoughts

These five courses offer a great introduction to the world of criminology and forensic psychology. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in either field, they’ll give you the skills and knowledge you need to get started. Even if you’re just curious about crime and criminals, they’re sure to satisfy your appetite for all things criminal justice. Simply investigate these courses and start learning today!

If you’re interested in learning more about the human mind but aren’t sure crime is the right path for you, why not explore careers in Psychology?

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