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Guide to Forensic Science

The word “forensic” is derived from the Latin word forensis: public; to the forum or public discussion; argumentative, rhetorical, belonging to debate or discussion. The modern definition of forensic has come to be known as that which belongs to, is used in or is suitable to courts of judicature, or to public discussion or debate. Forensic science is science used in public, in a court, or in the justice system. Any science used for the purposes of the law is a forensic science. The purpose of this guide is to provide general, specific, academic, and professional information on the growing and dynamic field of forensic science.


Forensic Nursing– Forensic nursing bridges the gap between health care and law enforcement. This field applies the science and art of nursing to criminal and civil investigations and legal matters. Forensic nurses are trained to provide care to victims and perpetrators of trauma or death due to traumatic events or criminal acts; patients may include victims of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, and pediatric trauma. These nurses assist with their patients’ physical and emotional recoveries, and are also trained to recognize and collect evidence while treating a patient’s wounds.

MSN in Forensic Nursing–Though forensic nursing is a rapidly growing specialization, many nursing schools have yet to provide significant coursework in this area. Cleveland State University’s Forensic Nursing Program is one that specializes in forensics. Browse course descriptions and find out more about the forensics field.

International Association of Forensic Nursing–International Association of Forensic Nursing (IAFN) is an international membership organization comprised of forensic nurses working around the world and other professionals who support and complement the work of forensic nursing.

Forensic Nurse Specialties–Read about the eight specialty areas of forensic nursing.


Forensic Anthropology– Forensic anthropology defined is the application of physical or biological anthropology to the legal process. Physical or biological anthropologists who specialize in forensics primarily focus their studies on the human skeleton.  These anthropologists assist in locating and recovering human skeletal remains and also work to assess the unique features (such as age, sex, ancestry or stature) of a decedent from the skeleton.

Forensic Anthropology: A Brief Review–Compiled by Diane L. France, PhD, this comprehensive, raw and vivid review provides an introduction to the field as well as specific case studies and how forensic anthropologists worked to identify sex, age, ancestry, race, and stature.

American Board of Forensic Anthropology–The American Board of Forensic Anthropology is a non-profit organization established to provide a program of certification in forensic anthropology. Research more about this field and visit For Students in order to browse a list of degree granting Forensic Anthropology programs.


Forensic Medicine– Pathologists, doctors, nurses, and technicians who use medical principles and scientific procedures to analyze the physical evidence associated with criminal investigations are practicing forensic medicine. Any healthcare professional who works in the forensic medicine field and aims to discover the cause of a person’s death, injury, or disease specialize in forensic medicine.

MS in Forensic Science Program Information– This website presents a brief overview of the program, educational requirements and coursework and provides information related to career opportunities.

American College of Forensic Examiners International–The American College of Forensic Examiners International (ACFEI) is an independent, scientific, and professional association representing forensic examiners worldwide.

The Forensic Examiner—Published by the ACFEI, this online journal offers a variety of educational and professional for those either working in or interested in the field of forensic medicine


Forensic Toxicology– These scientists rely primarily upon the field of analytical chemistry to determine how different chemicals affect the human body. In the field of law enforcement, toxicologists determine what chemicals are in the human body when a person dies, and whether those chemicals contributed to the person’s death.

American Academy of Forensic Sciences–The American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) is a multi-disciplinary professional organization providing leadership in order to advance science and its application to the legal system.

Forensic Biology– This comprehensive overview of toxicology offers a brief historical background and provides specific definitions of the kinds of tests toxicologists perform on the body.

Society of Forensic Toxicologists– This society is an organization made up of practicing forensic toxicologists and those interested in the discipline for the purpose of promoting and developing forensic toxicology.


Forensic Odontology–Forensic Odontology, or forensic dentistry, is a branch of forensic science that deals with the handling, examination, and presentation of dental evidence in court. Those working in this field typically have a background in dental anatomy, radiographs and their interpretation, pathology, developmental anomalies, and methods of charting and abbreviations in dental treatment progress notes.

Forensic Odontology: A Closer Look– This website provides detailed information on forensic odontology as a field as well as specifics on the process of age estimation and bite mark analysis. This resource also explains the importance of teeth, the role teeth play in revealing age, and the story of the most famous bite mark in history.

Forensic Dentistry Online– Forensic Dentistry Online started in 2000 and has rapidly expanded in order to provide a wealth of new and historical information. Browse the database of forensic dental publications and find out more about this field. Excellent resource for students or professionals.


Forensic Reconstruction– Forensic reconstruction is an art form. Using the skull of the deceased, reconstructionists create a three-dimensional representation of the face of the person, using materials such as clay and props. These artists are only given, at minimum, basic data, such as tissue markers based on the person’s race and sex. Authorities use this reconstruction to try and identify the victim.

Guide to Facial Reconstruction– This overview provides background information on the field of facial reconstruction as well as defines the various techniques for reconstruction.

Forensic Artists– Find out more about a career as a forensic artist. Stephanie Steinberg, a formally trained illustrator and graphic artist, completed training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia and now maintains this comprehensive and visually appealing website.

Smithsonian: Forensic Facial Reconstruction– Find out more about the history of forensic facial reconstruction and the steps it takes to reconstruct, sculpt, or sketch.


Computer Forensics– Computer forensics experts acquire, investigate, and report on the electronic evidence of criminal cases. A degree in this field will cover topics such as digital crime, computer ethics, and information security systems.

Computer Forensics Training Programs– Browse degree programs in this field, view course descriptions and find out more about the skills needed to succeed in this field.

Digital Forensics and Cyber Security Center– The University of Rhode Island offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in Digital Forensics and Cyber Security. Read more about these two programs and view course descriptions and professional development opportunities.


Forensic Psychology — Forensic psychology is a branch of psychology that is employed for legal circumstances, such as when an attorney or a judge requests that a professional psychologist testify in court to help determine the competency of a defendant. Using multiple interviews and by considering a defendant’s personal history, the psychologist evaluates the defendant’s mental and health status.

Forensic Psychology: Guide to Crime Scene Investigations– This article presents an overview on forensic psychology, its history, and significant to crime scene investigations.

What is Forensic Psychology? It’s Not Silence of the Lambs!—PSI Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology, offers an extensive background on forensic psychology, information on careers, and specifics on the training involved for achieving success in this field.

Society for Police and Criminal Psychology–The Society for Police and Criminal Psychology is a professional organization that promotes the scientific study of police and criminal psychology and the application of scientific knowledge to problems in criminal justice.


General Resources

Forensic Science Resources on the Internet–  Compiled by Cynthia Holt, Science and Engineering Librarian at George Washington University, these resources include information on a variety of topics related to forensic science, including books and case files, specific fields, professional organizations, and terminology.

Forensic Science– Read about forensic science programs, view a comprehensive list of concentrations, and find out more about becoming a professional in this field.

Visible Proofs: Forensic Views of the Body—Created by the National Library of Medicine, this site is not for the squeamish and delves into autopsies, anatomical specimens, and body decomposition. Fifteen forensic cases are presented as well as biographies of people who were instrumental in developing processes such as fingerprint identification and toxicology, and other technologies of forensic medicine.

Forensics: The Investigative Science– This ThinkQuest site is about four specific divisions of forensic science: fingerprint identification, blood detection, DNA detection, and fiber classification.

The Forensic Science Society– This society is a United Kingdom-based association for forensic professionals as well as individuals interested in forensics. This site offers general information for forensic science novices, and specialized information for forensic science experts and professionals.