Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)


Department: Sociology


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap


  • none.


  • none.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • none.


  • To apply theoretical resources from social studies of science & technology, criminology, socio-legal studies, and sociology of identity, to the critical analysis of the nature and uses of forensic science in criminal justice systems;
  • To critically assess the current standing of UK forensic science, through key debates and topics (such as the ethics and social impact of the police National DNA Database, the validity and reliability of fingerprint evidence, the commercialization of forensic science etc)
  • To explore and scrutinize the influence of wider policy trends, e.g. neo-liberalism, globalization etc, on the organization of forensic science provision
  • To critically address the place of UK forensic science in the wider international context, (particularly regarding EU policy initiatives), and to compare and contrast developments in jurisdictions abroad.


  • Sociology of Science & Technology as applied to Forensic Science
  • Ethical, social and legal issues associated with forensic science and technology
  • Police uses of forensic science
  • Forensic science and court deliberation
  • Criminal investigations as routine and exceptional work
  • The organisation of forensic science provision in the UK
  • The ‘co-production’ of forensic technologies, legal understandings and social categories
  • Governmentality, surveillance and society
  • The globalization/internationalization of forensic science

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students will be able to demonstrate:
  • Knowledge of insights from key social scientific traditions (social studies of science, criminology, socio-legal studies, and sociology of identity) relevant to the understanding of the uses of forensic science in the UK criminal justice system;
  • The ability to impartially apply these insights to key topics relating to modern forensic science
  • Knowledge of the current research agenda of social studies of forensic science
  • A critical appreciation of the scope and limitations of forensic science for both investigative and prosecutorial purposes
  • Specialised knowledge of police uses of forensic science in support of criminal investigations;
  • Ability to relate key forensic science topics to broader social and political developments, i.e. globalization, neoliberalism etc
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students will be able to:
  • Address the challenge of situating forensic science within the discipline of criminology
  • Critically evaluate criminological theories about the role and impact of science and technology in criminal justice
  • Impartially and critically evaluate claims made by key criminal justice actors about forensic science and technology
  • Apply relevant theoretical approaches to understand the complexities of using science and technology in criminal investigations
  • Compare and contrast the organization and use of forensic science across different national jurisdictions and legal systems
  • Place the development of forensic science within the wider context of concerns about the globalization of crime
Key Skills:
  • • By the end of the module, students should demonstrate:
  • Ability to gather appropriate information from a range of sources
  • Critical analysis of sources and evidence
  • Knowledge of the use and role of expert evidence in criminal justice systems
  • Up-to-date knowledge of national and international public policy developments concerning forensic science
  • IT skills relating to production of summative essays
  • Ability to plan workload and manage time
  • Ability to construct systematic and coherent written arguments

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures: Weekly lectures will provide students with theoretical and substantive knowledge necessary to develop understanding of the module topics.
  • Seminars: Weekly seminars provide an opportunity for seminar tutors to work with small groups, exploring in greater depth, and collectively, themes and issues arising from the lectures and associated reading. A proportion of seminars will be structured around student presentations. Each week a student will work beforehand on a topic congruent with the learning outcomes for this module, as indicated in the Module Programme.
  • Summative Assessment: Summative essays will enable students to demonstrate their achievement and understanding of a specific topic in depth and to construct a systematic discussion within word-limited constraints.
  • Formative Assessment: Students are requested to lead the seminars and to prepare presentations on the week’s reading. Feedback is provided verbally from both the module convenor and students. This allows students to develop their understanding of key concepts which in turn informs summative work.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 weekly (terms 1 and 2) 1 hour 20
Seminars 18 weekly (terms 1 and 2 1 hour 18
Other - Exhibition
Preparation and Reading 262
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1 3000 words 100%
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2 3000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Seminar Presentations.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University