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Specialized Field In Forensics


According to the World English Oxford dictionary, forensic is relating to the court of law and denoting the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of crime. In another definition by the American Heritage Dictionary, forensic can also be defined as the art or study of formal debate as well as the use of science and technology to investigate and establish facts in criminal or civil courts of law. In modern use, the term forensics in the place of forensic science can be considered correct, as the term forensic is effectively a synonym for legal or related to courts. However, the term is now so closely associated with the scientific field that many dictionaries include the meaning that equates the word forensics with forensic science.

Forensic science is the scientific method of gathering and examining information about the past. This is especially important in law enforcement where forensics is done in relation to criminal or civil law, but forensics are also carried out in other fields, such as astronomy, archaeology, biology and geology to investigate ancient times.

Forensic astronomy uses methods from astronomy to determine past celestial constellations for forensic purposes. Astronomers have employed forensic astronomy to determine exactly what day and time the artwork was made by famous artists’ painting showing an impressionist scene of water, mountains, and the sun.

Forensic anthropology is the application of physical anthropology in a legal setting, usually for the recovery and identification of skeletonized human remains. A forensic anthropological analysis assesses the age, sex, stature, ancestry, and evidence for an estimate of the predominant geographical ancestry of the individual, as well as determine if the individual was affected by accidental or violent trauma or disease prior to or at the time of death.

Forensic archaeology is the application of a combination of archaeological techniques and forensic science, typically in law enforcement. Forensic anthropological techniques can be used in the recovery and analysis of human remains.

Forensic Geology is the study of evidence relating to minerals, oil, petroleum, and other materials found in the Earth, used to answer questions raised by the legal system. It looks into the origin of the particular earth material, where identification is important in questions of mining or gem fraud to determine if the material is what the seller claims it to be.

Forensic Biology covers other application of biology in court of law, such as DNA, protein, entomology and others.

Forensic entomology deals with the examination of insects in, on and around human remains to assist in determination of time or location of death. It is also possible to determine if the body was moved after death using entomology.

Forensics is further divided into various subdivisions as below;

  1. Art forensics concerns the art authentication cases to help research the work’s authenticity. Art authentication methods are used to detect and identify forgery, faking and copying of art works, e.g. paintings.
  2. Computational forensics concerns the development of algorithms and software to assist forensic examination. On the other hand, Cyber forensics deals with the enhancement of information security, investigating mutually defined cyber-crime targets to gather intelligence, define prevention methods and to develop counter measures. Cyber forensics focuses on developing and publishing information or processes that will help protect organizations or individual from cyber-crime, especially that of potential to generate significant damage to the economy. Although both are related to information system and computer technology, but they have different functions to serve.
  3. Digital forensics is the application of proven scientific methods and techniques in order to recover data from electronic / digital media. Digital Forensic specialists work in the field as well as in the lab.
  4. Mobile device forensics is the scientific examination and evaluation of evidence found in mobile phones, e.g. Call History and Deleted SMS, and includes SIM Card Forensics. It is a branch of digital forensics relating to recovery of digital evidence or data from a mobile device under forensically sound conditions.
  5. Forensic accounting is the study and interpretation of accounting evidence. It can be named forensic accountancy or financial forensics where it is the specialty practice area of accounting that describes engagements that result from actual or anticipated disputes or litigation. Financial forensic engagements may fall into several categories such as economic damages calculations, breaches of warranties; bankruptcy, insolvency, and reorganization; securities fraud and business valuation.
  6. Forensic audit is a branch of forensic accounting, where an examination and evaluation of a firm’s or individual’s financial information for use as evidence in court. A forensic audit can be conducted in order to prosecute a party for fraud, embezzlement or other financial claims. In addition, an audit may be conducted to determine negligence or even to determine how much spousal or child support an individual has to pay.
  7. Forensic photography or crime scene photography, is the art of producing an accurate reproduction of a crime scene or an accident scene using photography for the benefit of a court or to aid in an investigation. It is part of the process of evidence collecting by providing investigators with photos of victims, places and items involved in the crime.
  8. Forensic aerial photography is the study and interpretation of aerial photographic evidence. Aerial photography involves taking of photographs of the ground from an elevated position. The term usually refers to images in which the camera is not supported by a ground-based structure. Platforms for aerial photography include fixed-wingaircraft, helicopters, balloons,rockets, kites, parachutes, stand-alone telescoping and vehicle mounted poles.
  9. Forensic Botany is a specialized area of forensic science whereby plant material is investigated to give the authorities deeper insight into crimes such as murder and robbery. The plant material found at the crime scene is investigated by forensic botanists and molecular biologists in order to identify individuals that might have come into contact with it. It is a relatively new field involving the scientific use of plant materials to help solve crimes, but interesting field in the study of botany.
  10. Forensic chemistry is the study of detection and identification of illicit drugs, accelerants used in arson cases, explosive and gunshot residue. Forensic chemistry is the application of chemistry to law enforcement or the failure of products or processes. Many different analytical methods may be used to reveal what chemical changes occurred during an incident, and so help reconstruct the sequence of events. Forensic chemistry is unique among chemical sciences in that its research, practice, and presentation must meet the needs of both the scientific and the legal communities. As such, forensic chemistry research is applied and derivative by nature and design, and it emphasizes metrology and validation.
  11. Forensic dactyloscopy is the study of fingerprints or hand print identification, which is the process of comparing two instances of friction ridge skin impressions. Dactyloscopy is an examination that is carried out on the markings of prints made from individuals’ fingertips. This method is usually employed as a way of personal identification most especially by the police in identifying criminals.
  12. Forensic document examination or questioned document examination answers questions about a disputed document using a variety of scientific processes and methods. Many examinations involve a comparison of the questioned document, or components of the document, with a set of known standards. The most common type of examination involves handwriting, whereby the examiner tries to address concerns about potential authorship.
  13. Forensic DNA analysis takes advantage of the uniqueness of an individual’s DNA to answer forensic questions such as paternity/maternity testing and placing a suspect at a crime scene, e.g. in a rape investigation.
  14. Forensic engineering is the scientific examination and analysis of structures and products relating to their failure or cause of damage to property or personal injury. Generally, the purpose of a forensic engineering investigation is to locate cause or causes of failure with a view to improve performance or life of a component, or to assist a court in determining the facts of an accident. It can also involve investigation of intellectual property claims, especially patents.
  15. Forensic geophysics is the study, search, localization and the mapping of objects hidden underground or underwater by the application of geophysical techniques such as radar for legal purposes. Geophysical methods have the potential to aid the search and the recovery of these targets because they can non-destructively and rapidly investigate large areas where a suspect, illegal burial or, in general, a forensic target is hidden in the subsoil.
  16. Forensic intelligence process starts with the collection of data and ends with the integration of results within into the analysis of crimes under investigation. As society becomes more and more intertwined with the use of computers, so does crime, and so does the job of law enforcement. The field of forensic intelligence tries to cope with this development by doing research on new techniques to solve crimes and to solve new types of crime.
  17. Forensic Interviews are conducted using the science of professionally using expertise to conduct a variety of investigative interviews with victims, witnesses, suspects or other sources to determine the facts regarding suspicions, allegations or specific incidents in either public or private sector settings.
  18. Forensic limnology is the analysis of evidence collected from crime scenes in or around fresh-water sources. Examination of biological organisms, in particular diatoms, can be useful in connecting suspects with victims.
  19. Forensic linguistics or legal linguistics is the application of linguistic knowledge, methods and insights to the forensic context of law, language, crime investigation, trial, and judicial procedure. It is a branch of applied linguistics that requires linguistic expertise.
  20. Forensic meteorology is a study of weather, applied to the process of reconstructing weather events for a certain time and location, often used in court cases, including insurance disputes, personal injury cases, and murder investigations.
  21. Forensic odontology or Forensic dentistry is the study and comparison of the uniqueness of dentition in order to identify recovered human remains in addition to the identification of whole or fragmented bodies by determining age, race, occupation, previous dental history and socioeconomic status of unidentified human beings.
  22. Forensic optometry is the study of glasses and other eyewear relating to crime scenes and criminal investigations. Iris identification is an unique technique and is part of Forensic optometry.
  23. Forensic pathology is a field in which the principles of medicine and pathology are applied to determine a cause of death or injury in the context of a legal inquiry.
  24. Forensic podiatry is an application of the study of feet footprint or footwear and their traces to analyze scene of crime and to establish personal identity in forensic examinations. It is a sub-discipline of forensic science wherein knowledge of forensic medicine is used in conjunction with knowledge of the anatomy, function, deformities and diseases of the foot, ankle, lower extremities, and at times, the entire human body, to examine foot-related evidence in a legal and/or criminal investigation context.
  25. Forensic psychiatry is a specialized branch of psychiatry as applied to and based on scientific criminology. Forensic psychiatrists work with courts in evaluating an individual’s competency to stand trial, defences based on mental diseases or defects and sentencing recommendations.
  26. Forensic psychology is the study of the mind of an individual, using forensic methods. Usually it determines the circumstances behind a criminal’s behavior.
  27. Forensic seismology is the study of techniques to distinguish the seismic signals generated by underground nuclear explosions from those generated by earthquakes.
  28. Forensic serology is the study and examination of bodily fluids such as blood, semen, saliva, perspiration and fecal matter at a crime scene. Serologists with forensic science degrees use serological data to identify the presence of bodily fluids at crime scenes and associate them with a person or group.
  29. Forensic toxicology is the study of the effect of drugs and poisons on/in the human body to aid medical or legal investigation of death, poisoning, and drug use. A forensic toxicologist must determine which toxic substances are present, in what concentrations, and the probable effect of those chemicals on the person.
  30. Forensic video analysis is the scientific examination, comparison and evaluation of video in legal matters, specializes in closed-circuit television camera (CCTV) and time lapse video surveillance.
  31. Criminalistics is the application of various sciences to answer questions relating to examination and comparison of biological evidence, trace evidence, impression evidence (such as fingerprints, footwear impressions, and tire tracks),controlled substances, ballistics, firearm and toolmark examination, and other evidence in criminal investigations.
  32. Trace evidence analysis is the analysis and comparison of trace evidence including glass, paint, fibres and hair recovered from crime scene, used as circumstantial evidence in the court of law. Blood spatter analysis (BSA) is the scientific examination of blood spatter patterns found at a crime scene to reconstruct the events of the crime. Both trace evidence analysis as well as BSA are one of the several specialties in the field of forensic science.


  1. An Introduction to Forensic DNA Analysis. Keith Inman. 1997
  2. Crime Scene Investigation. Thomas F. Adams. 2000
  3. Forensic Psychology. Lawrence S. Wrightsman. 2000
  4. Oxford Dictionary, Edition 2013
  5. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009
  6. Website : Wikipedia


Last Reviewed : 8 September 2015
Writer : Khoo Lay See
Accreditor : Dr. Ahmad Hafizam bin Hasmi