Goffman meets Popper in the Criminal Courts

Project: Internally funded project

Project Details


HaSS COVID-19 Student Project Fund awarded to supervise a research assistant student (Calum Harris) for 10 hours research on Erving Goffman's "Frame Analysis" and Karl Popper's "Scientific Method", building a multi-disciplinary literature database to interrogate why sub-standard scientific evidence (forensic science) is permitted in criminal trials in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and NZ.

Layman's description

Popper defines 'science' as a method of continually refining theories by trying to disprove them, rather than just searching for evidence which seems to prove them
true. This separates science from other activities (eg the difference between astronomy and astrology!) And yet, many areas of forensic science have been found to be without any scientific foundation (eg fingerprints, fibre evidence, even some forms of DNA analysis). This 'evidence' is still being used in criminal trials and is responsible for many convictions, despite the clear risk of creating miscarriages of justice. Goffman's 'Frame Analysis' is a method for understanding what is happening, and how individuals and organisations justify their behaviour to themselves and others. Thus this research project assembled a database of literature on Popper, Goffman and forensic science in criminal trials, contributing to a larger ongoing research project in this area.

Key findings

Using Popper's definition of the 'Scientific Method' as a standard, and applying Goffman's 'Frame Analysis' to forensic science/expert witnesses in criminal trials, is a novel contribution to the socio-legal literature. As part of a larger ongoing research project it will illuminate why sub-standard forensic science is permitted in criminal trials, despite the clear risk of causing miscarriages of justice.
Effective start/end date19/08/2019/01/21


  • Popper
  • Goffman
  • criminal
  • forensic
  • evidence
  • miscarriages
  • expert
  • witness


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