New scientific, technological and legal developments, particularly the introduction of national databases for DNA and fingerprints, have led to increased use of forensic science in the investigation of crime. There is an assumption, and in some instances specific assertions, that such developments bring improvements either in broad criminal justice terms or more narrowly in terms of economic or practical efficiencies. The underlying presumption is that the new technological opportunities will be understood and effectively implemented. This research investigates whether such increases in activity have also been accompanied by improvements in the effective use of forensic science. A systematic review of thirty-six reports published (predominantly in England and Wales) since the 1980s, which have considered the use of forensic science in the investigation of volume crimes, was carried out. These reports have identified a number of recurrent themes that influenced how effectively forensic science was used in investigations. The themes identified included forensic knowledge and training of investigators, communication and information exchange between specialists and investigators, timeliness of forensic results, interagency relationships and deployment of crime scene examiner resources. The research findings suggest that these factors continue to hinder the effective use of forensic science despite technological advances and this paper considers their potential causes.