The CSI Effect, DNA Discourse, and Popular Crime Dramas*
Social Science Quarterly
Objectives: Missing from the literature is an assessment of how forensic evidence, particularly DNA evidence, is portrayed across several fictional crime dramas, rather than just one drama, namely, CSI. The purpose of this article is to explore how DNA evidence is presented in four fictional crime dramas, the context in which it is discussed, and the impact DNA has on case clearance in these fictional dramas. Methods: We drew a systematic sample by taking every fourth episode within each of four crime shows: CSI (Las Vegas), Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, and Without a Trace. Transcripts were created for the 117 included episodes. We used both qualitative and quantitative content analyses to analyze the discourse of DNA within these crime drama episodes. Results: Our results indicate that police and forensic dramas both contain frequent references to DNA, while FBI dramas rarely discuss DNA, at least in any meaningful context. Additionally, DNA is not used to solve a majority of fictional victimizations in these dramas. Conclusions: These results also provide context for future research on the CSI effect, particularly in terms of measuring crime show viewership variables.
Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology
Original Publication Date
DOI of published version
UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa
Rhineberger-Dunn, Gayle; Briggs, Steven J.; and Rader, Nicole E., "The CSI Effect, DNA Discourse, and Popular Crime Dramas*" (2017). Faculty Publications. 874.