Expert’s Guide to Writing Investigation Reports

As a private investigator, writing investigative reports is an essential element of the investigation and post-investigative phases of the investigation process. In many respects, the information produced by Private Investigators will serve as the foundation for the work they are engaged to perform.

HR teams, senior management, law enforcement, and maybe even the courts carefully review the conclusions and evidence presented in private investigators’ reports.

Writing Investigation Reports

The findings and evidence presented in these investigations are commonly utilized as the foundation for future disciplinary and/or legal action. For these reasons, investigative reports must be completed thoroughly.

If you provide an excellent investigative report, there is a good possibility that you will be engaged again. If you perform substandard or messy work, you will most likely not be hired again.

What is the purpose of an investigative report?

When investigating a formal complaint or claim, such as a workplace harassment complaint, an investigative report is a document that details the findings (evidence) that were uncovered.

These studies are frequently ordered as soon as a formal complaint is received. They are typically used to determine whether an allegation is supported by the evidence.

Investigative report components

The size and scope of an investigation report can vary based on the allegations’ nature of the case’s intricacy.

Unlike a complicated, multi-faceted insurance fraud case headed to court, minor harassment allegations frequently require less justification to succeed. Nonetheless, the following elements will be included in all reports:

Page Cover

The cover page or case summary page is usually the opening part of an investigation report. This page should offer a short and scannable overview of all essential case material in the context of private investigation.

This page should provide the case number, date, location, important contact information, and case reference information. A firm’s employee file typically includes the employee’s name, ID number, job code, email address, and any other identifying information requested by the company.

Executive Summary

The Executive Summary of an investigative report is the most crucial section of the report.  It is also the most extensively read.

A detailed record of the specific complaint or accusation, as well as the scope of the investigation’s activities. And a summary of the investigation’s findings and a conclusion should be included in the report.

This summary should answer all of a person’s or organization’s primary questions about a case, such as:

  • What happened?
  • Who was involved?
  • Where did it happen?
  • When was it?
  • What was the investigation?
  • What did the research show?
  • What should I do?

Allegation Summary

You will go into greater detail about the specific complaint or accusation in the allegation summary.

In it, you will learn what happened, who was involved, when it occurred, what conditions led to it, and who was present to see it.

Investigation Details

This section of the report will contain the majority of your documentation and thorough work. You will carefully, clearly, and entirely summarize your findings in a simple, easy-to-read, and incredibly informative way.

Throughout your investigation, you will present critical facts and proof (typically in chronological order).

This section of the report will serve as guidance for creating each of the report’s executive summaries. It will offer the evidence that led to your conclusions or recommendations.

Conclusion & Suggestions

In conclusion, summarize the significant evidence that led you to your decision and explain why you believe the evidence supports or refutes the specific claim or complaint.

You will also include any relevant judgments you made about the facts that influenced your opinion of its credibility, incident probability, or other judgments.

5 Investigation Report Writing Tips

While the components of a report are simple, some best practices to follow if you want your reports to be effective. These are:

1. Be precise:

Avoid using passive voice, jargon, acronyms, huge phrases, and extensive explanations.

Write in a simple, concise manner with few digressions and word clutter. Simply state the facts without elaboration.

2. Specify:

Your role in reporting is to be meticulous. You must always provide names, dates, and times in the report and particular quotes.

“Ali was seen carrying the stolen files”, John said. Instead, state something along the lines of, “John reported he observed Ali leaves the west building and walking to the parking lot around 9:15 p.m. on Friday night”. She was holding a large brown box with the words Financials written in white on the side.

3. Exhaust:

Double-check your facts and, if feasible, get witnesses. It’s easy to take things for granted. To be accurate, you must stress-test the numerous assertions made during investigative interviews.

And flesh out the reasons why someone feels particular about a specific aspect of the story they told.

4. Include all proof:

Never exclude facts that don’t fit. Your report must include information that doesn’t seem to work or aren’t immediately relevant.

You can be in trouble for omitting information or evidence from a report if you do so knowingly.

5. Shine:

Ensure that your report is devoid of grammatical and other errors that could jeopardize its quality.

If you’re not confident in your writing skills, try hiring a proof-reader or editor to help you.

6. The legal system

You must be honest and trustworthy while giving proof. Make sure any evidence or documents you submit are not fake or deceptive. You should know and work within your area of competence, even when delivering evidence in non-medical situations.

What should be included in an excellent report?

A title page containing the following information:

The report’s publication date

  • The examination’s start date
  • The identity of the parties to the action
  • The full name (and date of birth) of the claimant
  • The party providing the instructions

Pages with numbers, short paragraphs with numbers, and relevant subheadings.

Your personal information, including your name, present position, a summary of previous experience, your HPCSA registration number, and if you currently possess a license to practice.

Statement of your requested opinion, as well as details of your relevant knowledge/experience

A list of the documentation and literature that you considered and relied on to conclude the case.

A timeline and summary of the relevant evidence should also be included in the report:

 

  • Whenever feasible, include accurate dates.
  • When referring to essential parts of the records, if possible, quote pertinent entries verbatim (marking it as a direct quote, for example, by using italics).
  • Identifying contested facts and citing the sources of the information provided, for example, “history given on admission to hospital on 01.02.2013”.
  • Defining and explaining technical terminology and abbreviations
  • Examining the evidence for a significant amount of time before and after the incident/period of claimed negligence – to put the events in context and highlight other key characteristics of the history.

 

There are several significant considerations to keep in mind:

 

  • First, only make comments on topics that fall within your area of expertise.
  • Provide a detailed response to each inquiry or charge of carelessness in isolation, quoting the question or allegation whenever possible.
  • Explain why the question/allegation looks to repeat or overlap with another or appears to be misdirected, and refer to other pertinent paragraphs when this seems to be true.
  • Please provide evidence to support your conclusions, including the facts in the case, your professional knowledge, and any published sources that you used to reach your conclusions.
  • When dealing with a topic on which there are a variety of viewpoints, it is essential to present justifications for each view expressed and the ideas themselves.
  • Take a position on the point of factual contention. You should explain why you prefer one version over another.
  • If evidence undermines your point of view, you should summarize that evidence and explain why it is not convincing.