Scientific Method : Applications in Failure Investigation and Forensic Science book cover
1st Edition

Scientific Method
Applications in Failure Investigation and Forensic Science

ISBN 9781420092806
Published April 27, 2009 by CRC Press
214 Pages 47 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Most failure or accident investigations begin at the end of the story: after the explosion, after the fire has been extinguished, or after the collapse. In many instances, information about the last event and the starting event is known reasonably well. Information about what occurred between these endpoints, however, is often unclear, confusing, and perhaps contradictory. Scientific Method: Applications in Failure Investigation and Forensic Science explains how scientific investigative methods can best be used to determine why and how a particular event occurred.

While employing examples from forensic engineering, the book uses principles and ideas applicable to most of the forensic sciences. The author examines the role of the failure investigator, describes the fundamental method for investigation, discusses the optimal way to organize evidence, and explores the four most common reasons why some investigations fail. The book provides three case studies that exemplify proper report writing, contains a special chapter profiling a criminal case by noted forensic specialist Jon J. Nordby, and offers a reading list of resources for further study.

Concise and illustrative, this volume demonstrates how the scientific method can be applied to failure investigation in ways that avoid flawed reasoning while delivering convincing reconstruction scenarios. Investigators can pinpoint where things went wrong, providing valuable information that can prevent another catastrophe.

Table of Contents



What a Failure Investigator Does

The Conclusion Pyramid

Some Common Terms of the Art

Crime versus Failure

How Accidents and Failures Occur

Eyewitness Information

Some Investigative Methods

Role in the Legal System

The Fundamental Method

The Fundamental Basis for Investigation

The Scientific Method

The Value of Falsification

Iteration: The Evolution of a Hypothesis

Lessons Learned

More about the Fundamental Method

More Historical Background

A Comparison of Deductive and Inductive Reasoning

Apriorism and Aposteriorism


The Method of Exhaustion

Coincidence, Correlation, and Causation

Applying the Scientific Method to Determine a Root Cause

The Scientific Method and the Legal System

Convergence of Independent Methods

Occam’s Razor

Organizing Evidence

Data Collection and Efficient Sorting Schemes

Verification of Facts

Organization of Data and Evidence: Timelines

Cause-and-Effect Diagrams

A Place to Start

Event and Causal Factors Diagrams

Investigation Strategies

Four Common Reasons Why Some Investigations Fail


Reason 1: The Tail Wagging the Dog

Reason 2: Lipstick on a Corpse

Reason 3: Elementary, My Dear Watson, Elementary

Reason 4: Dilution of the Solution

Report Writing: Three Case Studies

Reporting the Findings of an Investigation

Three Sample Reports

Misplaced Method in the Science of Murder

Jon J. Nordby, PhD, D-ABMDI


The Scene

Further Search of the Premises

The State’s Expert Reconstructs the Murder from the Clues

Revisiting the Scene Science: The Problem of Data

Testing to Develop Scientific Inferences from Data

Scientific Inferences from the Decedent’s Sweater

Scientific Inferences from the Suspect’s Glasses

Scientific Conclusions about the Shooting Events

Reading List

Books and Monographs

Papers and Articles


View More



Randall K. Noon owns a consulting firm in Hiawatha, Kansas.


The well-organized text and excellent cause-and-effect tables and graphics make the subject matter very palatable while delivering a virtual investigation blueprint. If you are remotely interested in why something fails and how to prevent a recurrence, this book is not only a great read, but an absolute must for your personal maintenance Body of Knowledge!
— Ken Bannister, writing in Maintenance Technology

At the end of the day a forensic reconstruction is only as reliable as the science applied
to the data, which in turn is only as reliable as the data collected, documented, and preserved. This book goes a long way in preparing or reminding a person of their obligations as a forensic investigator in order to distinguish what is reliable science and what is prejudice, chance, or just a good guess.
Dalton Brown, writing in MVC Forensics