Difference between Forensic Science and Criminology

Key difference: The disciplines forensic science and criminology deals with issues related to crime and criminal behaviors. Forensic science is an approach to solve the crime and its related issues, whereas criminology develops theories and explains the crime as social phenomena.

The word ‘forensic’ comes from the Latin (forēnsis), meaning ‘of or before the forum.’ The origin of the word forensic meant for the form of legal evidence and category of public presentation. It was found by the Romans. In the modern times, the term forensics is used in place of forensic science, which is used for legal matters.

The existence of forensics was found in the late 18th century, by French physician Fodéré in his writings “A Treatise on Forensic Medicine” and “Public Health” and by German medical expert Johann Peter Franck in his writings “The Complete System of Police Medicine”.

Forensic science (commonly known as forensics), is a science and technique to find out and investigate crime on the basis of evidence. Forensic science is mainly utilized in solving crimes and the enforcement of laws, such as criminal and civil laws. It is are also practiced in the field of astronomy, archaeology, biology and geology for investigating the ancient times. It is especially practiced on the basis of chemistry and biology to solve the legal matters or issues. Along with being a vast study, it is also subdivided into many fields and studies based on their types.

Forensic scientists collect and analyze the physical evidences, such as blood and other bodily fluids, shell casings, hair and fibers, to help solve crimes.

Criminology (from Latin crīmen, means “accusation”) is a scientific study of nature, extent, causes, control, and prevention of the criminal behavior of both the individual and society. The term criminology was coined in 1885 by Italian law professor Raffaele Garofalo as criminologia. Later, French anthropologist Paul Topinard used the analogous French term criminologie.

In the mid 18th century, the social philosophers gave thought to the crime and concept of law, due to which the criminology aroused. The criminology is based on three main schools of thoughts, which are mentioned in the early criminological theory period (mid-18th century to the mid-twentieth century). They are Classical, Positive, and Chicago, which were superseded by several contemporary paradigms of criminology, such as the sub-culture, control, strain, labeling, critical criminology, cultural criminology, postmodern criminology, feminist criminology, etc.

These are interdisciplinary field in the behavioral sciences, where the researches are conducted by the sociologists (particularly, the ones from the field of sociology of deviance), psychologists, psychiatrists, social anthropologists and from the writings of law. Their research area includes the incidences, forms, causes and consequences of crime along with the social and governmental regulations and reaction to the crime.

Comparison between Forensic Science and Criminology:


Forensic Science


What are they

Forensic science is an applied natural science.

Criminology is a specialized social science, which evolves from sociology.


It is a process of applying scientific methods for answering questions that arise in relation to crime or civil action and providing scientific evidence that could be used in situations.

It is the study of criminal behavior, causes of crime, ways to prevent crime and rehabilitation/punishments for criminals.


They work to serve and provide the investigatory tool.

Here the crime scene technicians and other forensic specialists work to apply scientific methods, in order to solve the specific crimes.


They provide evidences, which are used in criminology.

They provide the criminal profile by studying the crimes and nature of the criminals.

Based on

They are based in the vast and deep studies of research, mainly biology and chemistry.

They are based on the three theories: Classical, Positive, and Chicago.


Forensic scientist does not develop theories and thesis regarding any crime.

Criminologists do develop theories and thesis from their research and experience.


Types of forensic science are:

  • Forensic anthropology
  • Forensic archaeology
  • Forensic odontology
  • Forensic entomology
  • Forensic pathology
  • Forensic botany
  • Forensic biology
  • DNA profiling
  • Bloodstain pattern analysis
  • Forensic chemistry
  • Forensic osteology
  • Etc.

Types of criminology are:

  • General Criminology
  • Criminal Sociology
  • Criminal Psychology
  • Green Criminology

Image Courtesy: onlinecollege247.com, criminology.missouristate.edu

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