An exercise in scientific problem-solving: Illustrating the utility of the principles of the Sydney Declaration

Michelle D. Miranda (Lead / Corresponding author), Patrick Buzzini, Peter R. De Forest, Sheila Willis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In forensic science, scientific problem-solving is characterized by the recognition of traces as part of iterative reasoning processes to assign meaning to those traces in order to interpret and reconstruct events. Through a set of fundamental principles, the Sydney Declaration presents a foundation of forensic science through the lens of a scientist. The distinction between a scientist and a technician may require clarification-where a prototypical technician follows a prescribed set of 'standard operating procedures' and may be limited in the interpretation of the resultant data, the scientist utilizes knowledge, skills, experience and imagination to identify the issue at hand and develop lines of inquiry for testing and interpretation. This case report draws on the Sydney Declaration in order to highlight the importance of learning about events from careful consideration of both obvious and less obvious traces. A case involving the assault of a police officer is examined to illustrate the use of the Principles: the problem originally defined by investigators at the scene and later by prosecutors resulted in incorrect analysis and interpretation of traces, hampering efforts at an accurate reconstruction of events. This exercise serves to demonstrate that in order to engage in scientific problem-solving, it is necessary to apply observation and reasoning in forensic investigations in order to yield an outcome that can be clearly articulated. The overarching goal is to support the drive to improve forensic science practice, education, and research through a case illustrating the value of the principles of the Sydney Declaration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1835-1842
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number5
Early online date13 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023
Event 75th Annual Conference of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences - Orlando, United States
Duration: 13 Feb 202318 Feb 2023


  • abductive reasoning
  • crime scene investigation
  • observation
  • reconstruction
  • scientific problem solving
  • Sydney Declaration
  • traces

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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