Students can explore any area of research related to forensic chemistry that falls directly under their topic


  • The purpose of this research paper assignment is to challenge each student in an area of Forensic Chemistry with which they are either not familiar with or are passionate about and to provide an example lesson in how research is published in the open literature. Topics are selected by the student or the professor in areas that are not covered in depth within the course work. This exercise will allow each student to develop a basic research plan in addition to correctly searching for and citing scientific references. The oral presentation will give each student an opportunity to practice public speaking (in preparation for possible testimony of scientific concepts) while conveying what they have learned in their research paper. At the end of each presentation, students are encouraged to ask their fellow classmates questions, so we can ensure each student is fully engaged during the presentations.

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  • Students can explore any area of research related to forensic chemistry that falls directly under their topic. Each topic is broad and open to interpretation. Students should use as many resources as possible to gain a complete understanding of the topic before narrowing down the direction of their research paper. Ideally, link what your topic is to an actual case that appeared in the news or in the literature. The paper should be split into the following major sections:
  • Title
  • Abstract – brief yet detailed overview of the topic and its relevance to forensic chemistry
  • Introduction — about a page or page and ½ that explains and cites the relevant prior research or developed methods on the topic
  • Experimental — includes the actual chemistry and instrumentation details of how experiments were conducted or how an analytical technique is used or both
  • Results and Discussion – the main body of the paper: approximately 3-4 full pages long
    • Expand on concepts and information that you provided in the introduction
      • Expand on any case related information if available
      • Expand on the details of the instruments and methods used
      • Expand on how all of these aspects tie together for a good review of the literature on the topic and a correspondingly good “story”
    • Use charts/graphs/diagrams/figures/tables to clearly explain the text
    • Prepare your PowerPoint slides for your presentation as well (include an outline)
  • Conclusions (summarize the main findings or results)
  • References – use the citation recommendations below – note: these do not count towards word count requirements (3500 words)

Formatting Requirements

  • The research paper should be double spaced
  • Times New Roman font, 12-point font size and 1-inch margins
  • Use as headings the major sections above


  • Students are required to have a minimum of 5 outside references. Of these 5, at least 3 must be from relatively RECENT peer reviewed scientific journals. The remaining 2 may come from textbook sources or other sources deemed reliable.
  • The use of internet references is permitted provided it is properly cited; however, these will not count towards your 5 required references.
  • The use of Wikipedia as a reference is permitted ONCE.
  • Cite all references by number, e.g. (1) or (1-4), within the text of your paper and then be sure to number your citations so the reader can tell which reference to look into when reading your paper (see below for more guidance)

When using a modified-APA format, follow the number method of in-text citation. This means that the number of your citation coincides with the number of the reference in your reference list at the end of the paper, for example, (3) for the third reference (also numbered as such in your list), or (5-9) for references 5 through 9 in your list, and the complete reference should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper. If you are referring to an idea from another work but NOT directly quoting the material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you have to make reference to the number as well and cite it appropriately in your list. All sources that are cited in the text must appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

Please use the APA style for your reference listing. APA style dictates that authors are named by last name followed by initials; publication year goes between parentheses, followed by a period. The title of the article is in sentence-case, meaning only the first word and proper nouns in the title are capitalized. The periodical or journal title is next, and is followed by the volume number which, with the title, is also italicized (see below).


Author, A. A., Author, B. B., & Author, C. C. (Year). Title of article. Title of Periodical, volume number (issue number), pages.

Harlow, H. F. (1983). Fundamentals for preparing psychology journal articles. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 55, 893-896.

If you have a question, cite the article as best as you can.

Deadlines and Due dates

A rough draft of your research paper should be handed in as per the Schedule. Remember this is optional because it will not be graded; however, it is heavily advised to complete this even if it is your outline or is partially completed. Feedback will be provided either directly on your paper or via an e-mail or in-person.

The final paper is due the same day the oral presentations are due (see the Schedule)

RESEARCH PAPER Overview and Notes

Students will conduct library-based research on a topic related in some way to the field of forensic chemistry, ideally including case details, and submit the paper with minimum of ~3500 words for full credit.

The research papers should be submitted to SafeAssign on Blackboard as a check. Remember to attempt as best as possible to put this research into your own words and to cite where needed.

Please note that you do not need to cite every sentence but look for ends of paragraphs usually or where it makes sense. It is understood that this is not your research, and you are essentially compiling several papers together. Ideally, carefully critique and note several papers and compile your thoughts together and “tell a story” in a research-way. This means to use an introduction, experimental, results and discussion, and conclusions format. A great place to look for an example of what is required, is to look at the Journal of Forensic Science (JFS) or Forensic Science International (FSI) and select just about any research paper. When you are done with your paper it should look similar. In essence, you are creating a review paper that can be very helpful to other readers unfamiliar with the subject matter and can help them develop a path toward new research projects.

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