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Classifying Fingerprints

Once the fingerprints are taken and labeled, forensic scientists use a classification system to identify them. The three basic fingerprint patterns are Whorl, Arch, and Loop. There are more complex classification systems that further break down the pattern to plain arches or tented arches. Loops may be radial or ulnar. Whorls also have smaller classifications. 


ActivityStudy your fingerprints with a magnifying glass and classify them. Then create a database of the patterns in your class and compare them. Use the words below for your fields. Download Microsoft Excel template.

  • Name
  • Birth
  • Date
  • Arch
  • Loop
  • Whorl

Look at your prints through a microscope

Go to this Website for help with your classification

Fingerprinting: A Lesson in Classification

or purchase a book about fingerprinting.

Fingerprinting Teacher's Guide


Updated February 26, 2017
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