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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 has vocational relevance 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:

Excluded combinations

Sometimes you will not be able to count a module towards a qualification if you have already taken another module with similar content. To check any excluded combinations relating to this module, visit our excluded combination finder or check with an adviser before registering.

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
To enable you to make international comparisons, the information provided shows how OU postgraduate modules correspond to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ).
OU Postgraduate
FHEQ 7
Study method
Distance learning
Find out more in Why the OU?
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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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 cyber-crime 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, policy makers, 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 policy makers)

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 above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

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 out an accredited MSc programme.

Course work includes

7 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment
No residential school

Future availability

Investigating forensic psychology starts once a year – in October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2021. 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 England fee Register
    02 Oct 2021 Oct 2022 -

    Registration now closed

    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 2021. 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.

    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 a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of 64-bit Windows 10 (note that Windows 7 is no longer supported) or macOS and broadband internet access.

    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.

    If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Visit our Disability support website to find more about what we offer.