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Handwriting Analysis (Crime Fighters: Station 3)

Forensic analysis may involve the examination of hand-written material. When analyzing a sample of handwriting, forensic scientists look for particular characteristics that can be used to distinguish the writer.

When someone attempts to disguise their handwriting, unique characteristics in their punctuation or grammar may still be identified. Other clues lie in the writing instrument (type of pen/pencil) and the paper written on.

Handwriting Characteristics

  • Form—the shape, slant, angle and curves of the letters
  • Lines—thickness of the lines made by the pen or pencil and the amount of pressure the writer used when writing
  • Arrangement—the layout and spacing of the letters and words across the page
  • Content—spelling, grammar and punctuation are compared to confirmed samples of the suspects’ writing

Premise: Handwriting Analysis of Graffiti in the Bedroom
The Grizzlys' son's room was hit the hardest by the vandal. Books and DVDs were scattered on the floor and his chair had been broken. In addition to the damage to the furniture in the room, the walls were covered in graffiti. The detectives had taken photos of the handwriting, which oddly read, "Not too big. Not too small. This one is just right!" 

In this activity, student detectives compare the graffiti with handwriting samples of the same phrase provided by each of the three suspects. 

Objectives

  • Carefully compare, analyze and record evidence (handwriting) to infer a likely suspect.

Materials

What To Do

Preparation

Print off the handwriting samples from each of the suspects. You may also want to print an extra copy of the photograph taken at the scene of the crime if the one provided in the detective case book did not copy well.

Activity

  1. The “detectives” examine the photograph of the graffiti and compare it to the handwriting samples from each of the suspects, identifying significant characteristics in the handwriting from the wall.
  2. “Detectives” should note the characteristics on the photo of the graffiti that they think are significant and explain why they link the writing to a particular suspect.