Students from Abertay University will scour articles from across the decades as part of a live police probe into nearly 30 Scottish cold cases.
The project, part of National Missing Persons Week, will see a team of more than 20 psychology, criminology and forensic sciences students trawl newspaper cuttings stretching back nearly 50 years.
Looking through local, national and regional titles for hidden details, the work will take in cases from across Scotland where bodies and body parts have never been matched to a missing person or victim.
Dating back to 1971, complex IT systems and even DNA sampling were as widely available as they are now and the catalogue will include remains found in city, town and rural locations, as well as at sea.
It is hoped the project will highlight possible links for further investigation, potentially leading on to forensic tests that technological advances have only recently made possible.
Dr Penny Woolnough, senior lecturer in forensic psychology and associate director of the Scottish Institute for Policing Research, will lead the project, having last year organised the third International Conference on Missing Children and Adults at Abertay.
She said: “This is a fantastic operation for our students to be involved, not only because it gives them industry experience but there’s also a real chance they may turn up some useful information.
“People go missing for a whole range of reasons, including mental health issues, family or financial problems and even foul play, so there are a huge number of angles for the team to look at.”
Newspaper archives are known to be a reliable and accessible way of identifying and matching up disparate pieces of information and comparing them with other records.
The case information provided by Police Scotland will not take in all current cases of unidentified remains, but instead focus on those where this type of archive work can be useful.
The research team, a mix of undergraduate and masters students, has been given until August 31 to complete the task, gaining valuable real-world experience as part of their degrees.
Sarah Webb, an Abertay psychology student who is co-organising the project, said: “As soon as I heard about the opportunity to assist Police Scotland in finding missing loved ones I felt compelled to help with this investigation.
“I hope that the work we are conducting ends up providing some closure to families or at least reassurance that even after 47 years people do care and are still looking.”
Chief Inspector Lex Baillie of Police Scotland said: “Police Scotland has a long-standing and productive working relationship with higher education research in Scotland.
“Dr Woolnough’s department at Abertay has been a key partner in missing person research for more than 10 years and this project draws on proven expertise in the field.
“It also demonstrates the commitment of Police Scotland to missing person investigations and bring resolution to families and friends of those who are still missing – we do not close a case until each person is accounted for, no matter how long that takes.”