Skip to Main Content
Banner Image

FSC100 The Real CSI

Introduction to research in forensic science

FSC100 Assignment

Introduction to the Assignment

Assignment description is based on course materials (September 2021) and is used with permission from Prof. Knaap and from Head TA Dr. Scott.

Television shows like CSI, Bones, NCIS, and Law and Order bring forensic science and crime scene investigation to the general public. This assignment allows students to explore and understand the ‘CSI Effect, and how media portrayals of forensic science may influence public perception of forensic science, legal proceedings, and criminal activity.

This assignment is worth 20%, consisting of three parts (each due via Quercus). Please see below for description.


At approximately 6:20 a.m. on Saturday morning, police responded to a break-and-enter call at this residential address. The call was made by a Ms. Jane Smith, the homeowner, who returned home after a night on the town to find her front door open. Upon arrival, it was noted that the front door was open, a window had been forced open, and the bedroom and bathroom had been ransacked. Ms. Smith lived alone but advised police that she had had a friend over before they left for the evening on Friday night, that she was intoxicated when leaving the house, and that she had spent the night at a friends'. Primary responding
officers have identified blood spatter in the kitchen, and trace amounts of a suspicious substance in the bathroom. They also noted a muddy footprint on the floor and found a footprint in the flower bed below the window. Fingerprints were found on the window.

PART 1 (2.5%)

Students will be responsible for reviewing case details and associated crime scene photos, which will be posted on Quercus. Students must use their prior knowledge of forensic science to provide a list of AT LEAST TWO of the forensic methods that they believe should/could be used in the investigation of this crime scene. Students should also
describe what information these methods could provide investigator. Answers should be 1-2 sentences each, maximum.

Students will not be graded on the accuracy of their answers (with relation to what techniques were used during the investigation of this scene and the information these methods could provide), but rather, on their ability to think critically about forensic methodologies and the practical application of such, based on their current knowledge, and their ability to concisely explain their reasoning.

PART 2 (2.5%)

Students will be responsible for watching the ‘CSI: University of Toronto Mississaugaepisode that has been linked on Quercus. Students must list five “mistakes” that they
notice in the media portrayal of forensic science in this video, or, in other words, instances in the video in which they notice a discrepancy between what is portrayed in the video and what should/would occur in a realistic crime scene scenario.

PART 3 (15%)

Students must read the following journal articles:

Durnal EW.
Crime scene investigation (as seen on TV). Forensic Sci Int 2010; 199: 1-5.

Ribeiro G, Tangen JM, McKimmie BM. Beliefs about error rates and human judgement in forensic science. Forensic Sci Int 2019; 297: 138-147.

After reading the above articles, students should re-watch the CSI: University of Toronto Mississauga’ episode posted on Quercus, and write a paper that accounts for each of the following:

  1. In your own words, using references where applicable, please describe what the CSI Effect is and how it impacts (positively and/or negatively) each of the following: (i) public perception of forensic science, (ii) the courtroom and legal system, and (iii) criminal activity. A minimum 1.5 pages (maximum 2 pages) should be used. Note: This should not be a summary of the assigned readings. Rather, students should utilize the assigned article to form a baseline understanding of the ‘CSI Effect’. A minimum of 3 additional articles should be used to support your arguments/opinion.
  2. Identify three instances in which you noticed the ‘CSI Effect’ in the ‘CSI: University of Toronto Mississauga’ video. For each instance noted, be sure to:
    1. Describe what is happening in the ‘CSI: University of Toronto Mississauga’ episode.
    2. Explain how it differs from the reality of forensic science, and
    3. Describe how each promotes the ‘CSI Effect’ and how each instance of such an effect may impact one or more of: (i) public perception of forensic science, (ii) the courtroom and legal system, and (iii) criminal activity. A minimum of 250 (maximum 350) words should be used to answer the above for each instance.
  3. Given the above, provide your opinion concerning the implications of representing forensic science practices in the media. Do you believe it is appropriate to represent forensic science in the media? Why or why not? (250 words maximum).



To complete Part 3 this assignment, students will need to research and consult other scholarly/peer-reviewed sources. A minimum of THREE additional scholarly materials must be utilized. See the Journal Articles page of this guide for help finding articles.

All references must follow the referencing guidelines from the Journal of Forensic Sciences:

This Guide has a page devoted to the Journal of Forensic Sciences style. Go there to get familiar with the style.

Each assignment must include a title page. This title page will not be part of the page count. The title page must convey the following information:

  • Student name and student number
  • Course code
  • Assignment submission date
  • A professional assignment title

This assignment should be formatted as: Times New Roman font, size 12, 1.5 spacing, 1’ (2.54 cm) margins, page numbers on bottom right-hand corner (except on the title page). The assignment must follow the word counts outlined in Part 3, plus one additional page for ‘References Cited’. Pages beyond this count will not be graded; the ability to be concise and to the point is important in forensic documentation, and through this assignment, students will be provided the opportunity to practice writing in a succinct yet comprehensive manner.


  1. Personal pronouns are not appropriate in forensic documentation and (most) scientific writing; only use personal pronouns when asked for your opinion.
  2. Quotations should be used sparingly.
  3.  All technical terms (jargon) should be clearly defined, though students should assume the reader has some experience with scientific methodologies.

** Note that Quercus will automatically upload this paper to (further instructions on utilizing Quercus and will be provided via Quercus).

Assignment Rubric

FSC100H5 Applied Methods of Crime Scene Investigation: The Real CSI

 ‘CSI Effect’ Essay: Rubric

CONTENT                                                                                                                                    (17 MARKS)
Student has critically reviewed the literature and demonstrates understanding of the “CSI Effect    ______                                                                                Student demonstrates familiarity with current arguments re: the “CSI Effect”                                     ______
Discussion of relevance of the CSI Effect to the courtroom and legal system                                     ______
Discussion of relevance of the CSI Effect to criminals/criminal activity                                                ______
Student correctly identifies 3 instances of the  “CSI Effect” in the posted video (1 mark each)           ______
For each instance noted, student:
            Notes now the instance differs from realistic forensic science practices
             (1  mark each, total of 3 marks)                                                                                             ______
            Notes how each promotes the “CSI Effect” and impacts one of:
            public perception, the courtroom and legal system, criminals/criminal activity

             (1 mark each, total of 3 marks)                                                                                               ______

Student outlines how their own perception of forensic science has changed, linking
their answer to Part 1 of this assignment                                                                                                 ______
Student uses specific examples when providing opinion                                                                        ______
Student is able to justify this opinion in a coherent manner, supported by literature                               ______

STYLE                                                                                                                     (8 MARKS)

Proper formatting followed                                                                                               
(i.e. Times New Roman, 12 pt, 1.5 spacing, 2.54 cm margins, appropriate page numbers)    _______
Title page included, and formatted properly (see: Assignment outline)                                     _______
References cited page included, formatted according to the Journal of Forensic Sciences     _______
Minimum of 3 additional peer-reviewed/scholarly references                                                    _______
In-text references are formatted according to the Journal of Forensic Sciences                       _______

Paper is organized into coherent paragraphs, including an introduction and conclusion          _______
Student avoids run-on sentences, incomplete sentences, and too-long paragraphs                _______
                                                                                    Student has proofread/spell-checked their work (i.e. no spelling or grammatical errors)          _______                                   

             Total _____ /25