As discussed in Chapter 2, there is no question that crime scene investigators conduct informal crime scene analysis on scene. This informal analysis guides the early investigative effort and leads to the collection of the available evidence. However, crime scene processing and formal crime scene analysis are two distinct actions and should not be confused. Crime scene processing is a methodical evaluation and documentation of the scene. It involves six basic activities, which will ultimately define if any level of crime scene analysis is possible. These activities include:

1. Assessing the scene 2. Observing the scene 3. Documenting the scene 4. Searching the scene 5. Collecting evidence 6. Analyzing specific scene aspects (e.g., bloodstain or trajectory analysis)

These six activities are conducted in the general order as listed, which involves doing the least intrusive actions first, followed by the more intrusive ones. The express purpose of taking these actions and following the sequence is to recover as much physical evidence from the scene as possible, in as functional and as usable a condition as possible, and to document fully through notes, sketches, and photographs, the conditions found on scene. From this effort, data in the form of scene context and physical evidence are produced. These data serve as the basis of any formal crime scene analysis.