Scientific Method Applied to Forensic Science Paper
Table of Contents
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- Observation and Description of a Phenomenon or a Group of Phenomena
- Formulation of a Hypothesis or Hypotheses to Explain the Phenomena
- Use of the Hypothesis to Predict the Existence of Other Phenomena, or to Quantitatively Predict the Results of New Observations
- Performance of Tests of Prediction by Several Independent Experiments
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The forensic science paper is research of the laws governing the development of such a complex negative social phenomenon as a crime, the causes and conditions of its emergence and development, the place and the role of an offender in the process, and development of the optimum ways for the crime reduction and prevention. National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (2015) states that each forensic science paper uses a set of different methods, which allow solving the most complex and unusual tasks. The object of the forensic science paper includes the multifaceted phenomena, requiring a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach. The active development of the forensic science led to its overlapping with philosophy, sociology, history, social psychology, statistics, mathematics, demography, management science, economics, medicine, and other branches of knowledge. Each of these sciences can approach the problems of criminology from their own, quite different positions. The task of the forensic science is to use the conceptual and methodological apparatus of the other sciences as a tool to solve their problems. The specialist of the forensic science must know the problems related to the crime as well as issues connected with the organization and conduct of the forensic science research with a rich arsenal of the general and specific scientific methods of the reality cognition (National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 2015). The current paper will outline the main scientific methods applied to forensic science research as they relate to the nature of a crime and help understand the essence of criminology.
Observation and Description of a Phenomenon or a Group of Phenomena
The criminological phenomena include the phenomena of a crime, criminal and criminality, and crime victims. The philosophical definition of “phenomenon” states that it refers to the sensual perception of its presence in the social environment of human habitation. The phenomenon of crime is characterized by two fundamental points: a collection of the behavioral acts and social actions and the assessment of the certain categories of such acts as crimes by the state (National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 2015). Therefore, crime is the unity of the objective (social action, acts of conduct) and subjective (estimated activity of the state expressed in the criminal law) approaches to reality.
A description is the scientific method, which is aimed at selecting some features and properties of the observed phenomena or processes. In criminology, it is difficult to use such seemingly simple methods as observation and description. It is caused by the fact that many aspects are included in the range of the interests of the criminological sciences, or lie on the surface of events, or cannot be widely observed due to their anti-social nature. However, despite their disadvantages, they are applied in the forensic science research, making the criminal investigation process more detailed and clear for analysis.
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In criminology, the method of observation is related to the direct perception of the studied phenomenon or a group of phenomena. The objective of this method is to analyze the behavior of people in certain situations, for example, the behavior of a criminal or a victim during the commission of a crime. In criminology, observations and their variants have some specificity compared to the observation in the sociological study (Tewksbury, 2009, p. 44).
There are three main roles an observer performs in the forensic science research. They are the following: an observer is a member of any activity; an observer communicates with those entities, the activities of which he/she must watch; and a participant observer (gets a job in the organization without revealing himself as an observer, not involved into the observed activity but makes observation from outside) (Tewksbury, 2009, p. 46). The participant observation is widely used by the operational police officers, investigators, prosecutors, judges, lawyers, etc. Moreover, the law department students are also involved into the observation of juvenile crimes. Therefore, they have the possibility to observe the leisure ties and relations between the different groups and their behavior (Tewksbury, 2009, p. 46).
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Formulation of a Hypothesis or Hypotheses to Explain the Phenomena
A hypothesis is the main element of any forensic science research. The hypothesis gives the possibility to develop the well-grounded statements about the structure of the studied phenomena and the character of the interconnections existing between them as well as allows revealing the link between the researched phenomena (Carrier, 2006, p. 11). The hypothesis gives the direction of the search, focuses the researcher’s attention on various points of reality, and allows making the forensic science research properly. Firstly, hypothesis must be consistent with the established science-based regulations in criminology. Secondly, it is characterized by the well-grounded possibility of the reasonable assumptions. Therefore, not every assumption can be a hypothesis. Usually, a hypothesis includes the suggestion, which should be tested.
The formulation of hypothesis requires an evaluation of the existing theoretical and empirical data, their correlation with a subject, an object, and the purpose of an investigation. It is necessary to form the hypotheses at the stage of the preparation of the research program. The hypotheses can be different for various forensic science researches (Carrier, 2006, p. 11). For example, the research of the regional differences of criminality presupposes the formation of the following hypotheses:
- There are the differences in crime levels in regions and rural areas due to the varying degrees of crimes latency – its reflection in the criminal statistics, which results from the use of the latent crime techniques;
- The differences are determined by the economic, social and cultural regional characteristics which were detected by studying the economic, social and cultural conditions of the people’s lives.
Accordingly, it becomes clear how the process of crime detection and prevention as well as prosecution and punishment of the criminals occurs. The correct formation of hypotheses helps to explain the forensic science phenomena.
Use of the Hypothesis to Predict the Existence of Other Phenomena, or to Quantitatively Predict the Results of New Observations
The methods of criminological prediction can be attributed to the method of hypotheses. Hypotheses describe the scientific prediction at the level of the general theory. It means that the theory, its regularities and cause-effect relationships of the functioning and development create the initial basis for hypotheses. At the hypothesis level, there is qualitative characteristic of the objects, expressing the common principles of their behavior. The criminological prediction of the new phenomena or the proof of the old ones is the process of the scientific knowledge for the future crime (Carrier, 2006, p. 13). The formation of hypotheses for the research of any object or phenomenon is not a new activity. The new phenomena are always compared to those ones which were considered before. In some cases, there are the phenomena related to the ones of the previous tasks.
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In order to solve the new task of the forensic science research, it is necessary to form a definite hypothesis, which is used as a method of crime prediction knowledge, earlier unknown in the theory and practice. At this point, there is a link of hypotheses with modelling (National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 2015). However, the hypothesis does not require any proof. It only leads to the assumption of the existence of certain phenomena, facts, events, and processes. It means that the hypothesizing is a guide, pointing the way for the implementation of the required tasks and goals in the forecasting process.
Thus, the criminological forecasting allows making hypotheses about the nature of a future crime to predict the existence of new phenomena and processes. Hypothesizing enables constructing a model for the future crimes, investigates it, and receives the forecast of the researched phenomenon (Carrier, 2006, p. 13). The further development of the theory and practice of the criminological forecasting will undoubtedly improve the use of the methods as well as develop the new ones for the prediction of the existing phenomena and analyzing of the new observations.
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Performance of Tests of Prediction by Several Independent Experiments
Prediction is not just a statement about the future but the systematic study of the developmental prospects of the phenomenon and the process of using the tools of modern science. The forensic science prediction is a result of a scientific theory, received within the framework of this theory, based primarily on the foundations of the systematic research and theoretical analysis of the laws and conditions of their implementation.
According to McAdams and Nadler (2007), a criminological experiment is a social activity which is pre-conditioned within the law to a certain extent and complies with the moral norms for the purpose of testing hypotheses about the causes and conditions of offenses and crimes. Besides, experiments are the best measures for the development of the effective forms and methods of crime prevention and their legal regulations. An experiment is used in forensic testing for predicting the approval of forecasts. The implementation of the independent experiments according to the results of the forecast is one of the final stages of prediction, called the stage of the prediction implementation (McAdams & Nadler, 2007, p. 149). The question of an experiment in criminology has always been debatable. There is the opinion that experiments are generally unavailable for the tests of prediction in the forensic science. Another position is to ensure that the experiment can be used in criminology in a positive direction or in the area of crime prevention (Tewksbury, 2009, p. 53).
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The method of forensic experimentation is rarely used due to the restrictions and regulatory practice. The use of the experimental method is possible only if there is strict compliance with the law, availability of evidence-based hypotheses, the chosen typical object of the experiment, granting of a certain period of time, providing an opportunity to test hypotheses profoundly and the permission for tests of prediction by means of experiments from the relevant authorities (McAdams & Nadler, 2007, p. 152).
Being an area of the scientific knowledge, criminology deals with mass social phenomena which occur in the community. These phenomena include crimes, their causes, the subjects of crimes, motives, conditions, etc. It is impossible to study these phenomena without the use of the methodological and organizational bases of the forensic science. The forensic science research is a social research, which is conducted with the use of various methods of social phenomena. It is also the process of collection, organization, processing and analysis of the information on crime and prevention measures of this social phenomenon. In other words, the aim of the forensic science paper is to obtain the reliable and profound information based on the analysis of the internal crime characteristics, the mechanism of individual criminal behavior, the causes and conditions leading to the commission of socially dangerous acts. Besides, the forensic science paper studies the impact of the negative phenomena in the various spheres of social life for the purpose of the subsequent development of preventive measures. The learning of the laws governing the development of the criminological and socio-legal phenomena is based on the application of the scientific research methods and techniques, which help to reveal the nature of crime and to understand the essence of criminology.