FORENSIC 701 : Fundamental Concepts in Forensic Science


2024 Semester Two (1245) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

Ethics and quality assurance in forensic science. Principles of criminal law, principles of evidence and procedure, expert evidence, interpretation of scientific evidence, probability and statistics. Forensic pathology, psychology and psychiatry.

Course Overview

This course covers ethical and legal aspects of forensic science and aspects of forensic medicine. Upon completing this course students will have an understanding of the ethical aspects of forensic science and the application of professional and quality standards. They will discover what expert evidence is and how it is presented in court by prosecution and defense expert witnesses. They will learn and apply the principles of criminal law and procedure. This part of the course is taught in part by lawyers and other forensic specialists from outside the University. Students with a scientific background should be prepared for a different style of teaching and learning from that which they are used to.
Students are taught how scientific evidence is presented in court and the essential scientific requirements of this type of evidence, including an introduction to the use of statistics in the evaluation of scientific evidence. The roles of ethics, quality assurance and accreditation in maintaining standards in different types of forensic laboratories and scientists are explored.
The final component of this course comprises forensic medicine. Lectures are given on aspects of forensic pathology, psychology, psychiatry, odontology, and medical examinations in support of criminal investigations.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: People and Place
Capability 2: Sustainability
Capability 3: Knowledge and Practice
Capability 4: Critical Thinking
Capability 5: Solution Seeking
Capability 6: Communication
Capability 7: Collaboration
Capability 8: Ethics and Professionalism

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Describe and discuss the ethical and professional requirements of a forensic scientist's work (Capability 3, 6, 7 and 8)
  2. Critically evaluate the role of an expert witness in the criminal court system (Capability 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8)
  3. Describe and explain the role of a coroner in determining the cause of death (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 7)
  4. Identify and critically evaluate the ways in which the postmortem interval can be determined (Capability 3, 4 and 5)
  5. Identify the stakeholders in a forensic laboratory and how the laboratory can engage with them (Capability 1, 2, 6, 7 and 8)
  6. Develop and demonstrate an understanding of how scientific evidence can be presented (Capability 1, 2, 3 and 6)
  7. Describe and discuss the role of the forensic scientist in achieving equitable outcomes in the justice sector (Capability 1, 2, 7 and 8)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Assignments 60% Group & Individual Coursework
Final Exam 40% Individual Examination
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Final Exam


Tuākana Science is a multi-faceted programme for Māori and Pacific students providing topic specific tutorials, one-on-one sessions, test and exam preparation and more. Explore your options at

As part of the University-wide Tuākana community, The School of chemical sciences aims to provide a welcoming learning environment for and enhance the success of, all of our Māori and Pacific students. We are led by the principles of tautoko (support) and whanaungatanga (connection) and hope you find a home here at the School. Students who have identified as Māori and/or Pacific will receive an invitation to our online portal introducing the Programme, the resources we have available, and how you can get involved.

Tuākana Chemistry runs a range of activities for students enrolled in this class. This includes weekly workshops, social activities, and opportunities to engage with senior students and researchers within the School of Chemical Sciences. Tuākana-eligible students will be added automatically to the Tuākana Chemistry program when they enroll in this course. For more information, please see the Tuākana program website or email

Special Requirements

Students must complete assignments and the final exam to pass this course.

Students should be aware that lectures are typically delivered in the early evening.

There are no laboratory classes in this course.

Additional ad hoc workshops and tutorials may be offered if required or requested by students.

Students should be aware that some forensic topics include material of a sensitive and potentially upsetting nature. Please discuss any concerns you have with the Programme Director.

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15-point course and students are expected to spend 10 hours per week involved in each 15-point course that they are enrolled in.

For this course, you can expect 30 hours of lectures,  45 hours of reading and thinking about the content, and 75 hours of work on assignments and exam preparation.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience or Online

This course is offered in two delivery modes:

Campus Experience

Attendance is expected at scheduled activities and components of the course.
Lectures will be available as recordings. 
The course will include live online events including group discussions.
Attendance on campus is not required for the exam.
The activities for the course are scheduled as a standard weekly timetable.


The course may include live online events including lectures and these will be recorded.
Attendance on campus is not required for the exam.
Where possible, study material will be released progressively throughout the course.
This course runs to the University semester timetable and all the associated completion dates and deadlines will apply.

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Reading material may be given out during the course, but there are no required textbooks.

Student Feedback

During the course Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the staff responsible for the course and staff-student consultative committees.

At the end of the course students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback.

Your feedback helps to improve the course and its delivery for all students.

The relative weighting of assignments and exams has been altered to reduce the examination contribution to 40%.

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed for potential plagiarism or other forms of academic misconduct, using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.


The content and delivery of content in this course are protected by copyright. Material belonging to others may have been used in this course and copied by and solely for the educational purposes of the University under license.

You may copy the course content for the purposes of private study or research, but you may not upload onto any third party site, make a further copy or sell, alter or further reproduce or distribute any part of the course content to another person.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

Published on 31/10/2023 10:52 a.m.