Investigating forensic psychology

This module follows several criminal cases to explore forensic psychology and its application to understanding, preventing, and detecting crime. Topics include investigative decision making, witness memory, profiling, lie detection, terrorism, violent crime, sexual offences and cybercrime. You'll explore how psychological research is conducted and applied, critically evaluate its contribution to practice, and learn to communicate this to lay audiences. This module suits students who work in related areas, want to extend their knowledge in forensic psychology, and are not pursuing BPS accreditation in forensic psychology. While advantageous, you do not have to have a psychology degree to study this module.

Vocational relevance

The module is relevant for students who want to pursue careers using forensic psychological knowledge but do not require BPS-accredited status in Forensic Psychology. The module is relevant for all those working in related sectors who feel that knowing more about forensic psychological topics will complement their existing skills and knowledge, and broaden their professional perspective. This includes those working in the criminal justice system, police, probation, prisons, legal professions, third-sector organisations, government departments, education or social work.

Qualifications

DD802 is a compulsory module in our:

Module

Module code
DD802
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
120
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to these frameworks.
OU Postgraduate
SCQF 11
FHEQ 7
Study method
Distance learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

What you will study

You'll explore forensic psychological topics by examining a variety of real criminal cases. This includes studying cases like that of the Yorkshire Ripper (to learn about investigative decision making), Raoul Moat (to learn about crisis negotiation), and the September 11th bombings (to learn about terrorism). Through such cases, you'll see how psychology can contribute to a better understanding of crime, offenders and criminal investigations.

The research you engage with will be drawn from a variety of cutting-edge areas, including cybercrime and terrorism, as well as some of the classic research topics that present challenges for forensic psychology. Some of the topics covered include:

  • witness memory: how easy is it to recognise the face of someone we may have only seen briefly or during a stressful situation?; is it possible to remember things (vividly) that have never happened? (false memories); can the way witnesses are interviewed change what they remember?
  • lie detection: can we detect if people are lying to us?
  • decision making: what can psychology tell us about the way police make their investigative decisions? And what can it tell us about how jurors or judges make decisions in court?
  • profiling: can psychology help police by systematically understanding a potential offender’s motives, personality or a crime scene?
  • sexual offences: what motivates offenders, how can they be detected and what are the implications for victims?
  • mental illness and crime: how far is mental illness related to criminal behaviour?
  • cybercrime: how does psychology contribute to better understanding and preventing cybercrime, including cyber-bullying and cyberstalking.

The module helps you to understand how psychological research is conducted and how to read, evaluate and apply psychological research. You'll learn how to search for, utilise and communicate existing research within this area. Crucially you will learn how to select and evaluate research that answers specific real-world questions/issues and how to explain what such research tells us about such questions/issues to different professional and lay audiences. In this context, you will have the opportunity to apply what you have learned to real-world issues and fictitious crime cases (e.g. communicating research findings relating to a case or issue to a judge, documentary makers, policymakers, or members of the public).

Finally, you will specialise in an area of your choice and pursue your own independent dissertation project (based on literature research) on your chosen issue/topic. Your work on this dissertation project will be supported and supervised by your tutor. In addition, the learning materials are designed to prepare you for your dissertation project by teaching you the skills needed to carry out this project. The project will take the form of an extensive literature review and discussion. As part of this project, you will be asked to link your findings to a real-world/practice problem/issue and inform a lay or professional audience about your findings. You will not carry out your own primary data collection or research.

You will learn

By studying this module, you will learn how to:

  • read, critically evaluate and apply research in forensic psychology
  • conduct a systematic literature search
  • write a literature review
  • select journal articles/research relevant to applied questions
  • write reports for different audiences (e.g. legal professionals, charities, documentary makers)
  • effectively present information to different audiences (e.g. other academics, practitioners, or policymakers)

You'll also learn about:

  • the relevance of academic research in forensic psychology for real-world issues/cases
  • key concepts, debates and research in forensic psychology.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will be allocated a tutor who has relevant knowledge of forensic psychology, and they will support you from the very start through to completing your dissertation project. Teaching is all online and will be delivered via online tutorials, forum interactions and, where needed, email contact.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.

Assessment

The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Professional recognition

This module, as part of the MSc in Forensic Psychological Studies (F73), is not suitable for psychology graduates who specifically want to achieve the British Psychological Society recognised status as a chartered Forensic Psychologist. Students wishing to do this are advised to seek an accredited MSc programme.

Course work includes

7 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Future availability

Investigating forensic psychology starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2027.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Entry requirements

This module cannot be studied on a stand-alone basis. To register, you will need to have successfully completed Principles of social and psychological inquiry (DD801) and satisfied the entry requirements for the MSc in Forensic Psychological Studies.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Register

Start End Fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Oct 2025 Not yet available

Registration closes 12/09/24 (places subject to availability)

Register
This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2027.

Future availability

Investigating forensic psychology starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024. We expect it to start for the last time in October 2027.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

Ways to pay for this module

We know there’s a lot to think about when choosing to study, not least how much it’s going to cost and how you can pay.

That’s why we keep our fees as low as possible and offer a range of flexible payment and funding options, including a postgraduate loan, if you study this module as part of an eligible qualification. To find out more, see Fees and funding.

Study materials

What's included

The module is delivered entirely online. Comprehensive guidance and support is available via a module website which includes:

  • a week-by-week online study planner
  • course-specific module materials
  • audio and video content
  • online tutorial access to tutor group forums and tutor-led learning events
  • access to OU library services.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Monterey or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of any audio components and Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader (and where applicable: musical notation and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way). Other alternative formats of the module materials may be available in the future. Where independent literature searches are conducted, the module team cannot guarantee that all materials found via the library are screen reader compatible. However, there will always be sufficient alternatives to ensure students can complete compulsory assignments.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.

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