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Session: 2022/23

Last modified: 16/08/2022 09:30:08

Title of Module: Trace Evidence & Microscopy

Code: CHEM09008 SCQF Level: 9
(Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework)
Credit Points: 20 ECTS: 10
(European Credit Transfer Scheme)
School:School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences
Module Co-ordinator:Ciaran  Ewins

Summary of Module

Trace evidence has become crucial to forensic science as techniques such as microscopy and spectroscopy have advanced. This module examines the sources and the physical nature of the various types of trace evidence especially hairs fibres and selected biological trace evidence such as insects. Microscopical techniques to gain quantitative and qualitative information from these evidence types are then introduced.

The management of scenes of crime for trace evidence preservation, collection and packaging are introduced. Laboratory work is important in this area and time will be spent in the lab using light and polarising light microscopes to examine trace evidence , recovering trace material from evidence, carrying out infra red spectroscopy and microscopy of fibres and electron microscopy with x-ray analysis of trace materials.

This module will work to develop a number of the key 'I am UWS' Graduate Attributes. Those who complete this module will have developed academic competencies in report writing and problem solving and practical knowledge and skills related to research and laboratory work in Forensic Science.

  • Garment examination and recovery of trace evidence

  • Chemical composition of trace evidence materials

  • Optical microscopy of hairs and fibres

  • Polarised Light Microscopy of hairs and fibres

  • Infra-red spectroscopy of trace evidence

  • Forensic entomology

Module Delivery Method
Face-To-FaceBlendedFully OnlineHybridCHybridOWork-based Learning
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Term used to describe the traditional classroom environment where the students and the lecturer meet synchronously in the same room for the whole provision.

A mode of delivery of a module or a programme that involves online and face-to-face delivery of learning, teaching and assessment activities, student support and feedback. A programme may be considered “blended” if it includes a combination of face-to-face, online and blended modules. If an online programme has any compulsory face-to-face and campus elements it must be described as blended with clearly articulated delivery information to manage student expectations

Fully Online
Instruction that is solely delivered by web-based or internet-based technologies. This term is used to describe the previously used terms distance learning and e learning.

Online with mandatory face-to-face learning on Campus

Online with optional face-to-face learning on Campus

Work-based Learning
Learning activities where the main location for the learning experience is in the workplace.

Campus(es) for Module Delivery
The module will normally be offered on the following campuses / or by Distance/Online Learning: (Provided viable student numbers permit)
Paisley:Ayr:Dumfries:Lanarkshire:London:Distance/Online Learning:Other:
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Term(s) for Module Delivery
(Provided viable student numbers permit).
Term 1check markTerm 2


Term 3


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Learning Outcomes: (maximum of 5 statements)

On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

L1. Describe the sources and nature of common trace evidence and the methods available for its collection and study.

L2. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the principals and terminology of forensic microscopy and the operation of light and electron microscopes.

L3. Understanding of the principles of infra red spectroscopy and be able to apply this technique to the identification of routine fibres types.

L4. Show skill in the handling of trace evidence and in the use of optical microscopy to study and characterise trace evidence including geological, biological and fibre materials

Employability Skills and Personal Development Planning (PDP) Skills
SCQF Headings During completion of this module, there will be an opportunity to achieve core skills in:
Knowledge and Understanding (K and U) SCQF Level 9.

A broad and integrated knowledge of the role of microscopy in forensic science and the variety of microscopic methods available.

A detailed understanding of the contamination issues in evidence handling, packaging and recovery.

Practice: Applied Knowledge and Understanding SCQF Level 9.

A detailed knowledge of polarized light and compound microscope methods used to investigate trace materials.

Be able to carry out the routine methods of infra red spectroscopy to identify and compare fibres.

Recovery of trace evidence using brushing and taping

Generic Cognitive skills SCQF Level 9.

Undertake analysis of information form spectroscopic and microscopic examination of evidence

Formulate approaches to dealing with evidence containing trace materials

Analyse the presentation of trace evidence in court and ways that its use can be questioned

Communication, ICT and Numeracy Skills SCQF Level 9.

Present information from evidence examination in notes, sketches, reports and photographs

Use Microsoft Office applications to prepare reports and presentations.

Autonomy, Accountability and Working with others SCQF Level 9.

Demonstrate initiative and judgement in deciding how to deal with evidence

Show a professional approach to the interpretation of information from trace evidence.

Pre-requisites: Before undertaking this module the student should have undertaken the following:
Module Code:
Module Title:
Molecules of Life
Other:or suitable alternative
Co-requisitesModule Code:
Module Title:

* Indicates that module descriptor is not published.

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Learning and Teaching
This module examines the sources and the physical nature of the various types of trace evidence especially hairs, fibres, geological materials and also biological trace evidence such as insects, pollen grains and phytoplankton.
Lectures will cover topics such as fibres, ploymers, trace evidenc, infra-red spectroscopy, biological and geological trace evidence. Laboratory classes will cover recover of trace evidence, optical microscopy, infra-red spectroscopy and polarised light microscopy of fibres.
Learning Activities
During completion of this module, the learning activities undertaken to achieve the module learning outcomes are stated below:
Student Learning Hours
(Normally totalling 200 hours):
(Note: Learning hours include both contact hours and hours spent on other learning activities)
Lecture/Core Content Delivery24
Laboratory/Practical Demonstration/Workshop24
Independent Study152
200 Hours Total

**Indicative Resources: (eg. Core text, journals, internet access)

The following materials form essential underpinning for the module content and ultimately for the learning outcomes:

James Robertson and Micheal Grieve (ed) Forensic Examination of Fibres 2nd Ed, (1999) , publ. Taylor and Francis, isbn 0-7484-0816-9

Brian Caddy (ed) Forensic Examination of Glass and Paint - Analysis and Interpretation (2001), publ. Taylor & Francis Forensic Science Series, isbn 0-203-48358-8

Andrew Jackson and Julie Jackson, Forensic Science, 4th Ed., Pearson Education Ltd. (2017) ISBN 978-1-292-08818-1

(**N.B. Although reading lists should include current publications, students are advised (particularly for material marked with an asterisk*) to wait until the start of session for confirmation of the most up-to-date material)

Engagement Requirements

In line with the Academic Engagement Procedure, Students are defined as academically engaged if they are regularly engaged with timetabled teaching sessions, course-related learning resources including those in the Library and on the relevant learning platform, and complete assessments and submit these on time. Please refer to the Academic Engagement Procedure at the following link: Academic engagement procedure

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Supplemental Information

Programme BoardPhysical Sciences
Assessment Results (Pass/Fail) No
Subject PanelPhysical Sciences
ModeratorMohammed Yaseen
External ExaminerI Turner
Accreditation Details
Version Number


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Assessment: (also refer to Assessment Outcomes Grids below)
Continuous Assessment
Lab Reports 60%
Class Test 40%
(N.B. (i) Assessment Outcomes Grids for the module (one for each component) can be found below which clearly demonstrate how the learning outcomes of the module will be assessed.
(ii) An indicative schedule listing approximate times within the academic calendar when assessment is likely to feature will be provided within the Student Handbook.)

Assessment Outcome Grids (Footnote A.)

Component 1
Assessment Type (Footnote B.) Learning Outcome (1) Learning Outcome (2) Learning Outcome (3) Learning Outcome (4) Weighting (%) of Assessment ElementTimetabled Contact Hours
Class test (written)check markcheck markcheck markcheck mark400
Report of practical/ field/ clinical workcheck markcheck markcheck markcheck mark600
Combined Total For All Components100% 0 hours

A. Referred to within Assessment Section above
B. Identified in the Learning Outcome Section above

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  1. More than one assessment method can be used to assess individual learning outcomes.
  2. Schools are responsible for determining student contact hours. Please refer to University Policy on contact hours (extract contained within section 10 of the Module Descriptor guidance note).
    This will normally be variable across Schools, dependent on Programmes &/or Professional requirements.

Equality and Diversity
This module is suitable for any student with appropriate science background, however it should be noted that in order for you to complete this module the laboratory element of coursework will require to be undertaken, special support can be provided where necessary, consequently, if special support is needed to complete this part of the module, then the University’s Health and Safety Officer should be consulted to make sure that safety in the laboratory is not compromised.
Current University Policy on Equality and Diversity applies.
UWS Equality and Diversity Policy
(N.B. Every effort will be made by the University to accommodate any equality and diversity issues brought to the attention of the School)

2014 University of the West of Scotland

University of the West of Scotland is a Registered Scottish Charity.

Charity number SC002520.