Writing an investigation report can turn out to be a difficult and complicated task for investigators since they often rush through the process compiling a significant number of files and documents resulting in too vague and irrelevant reports. However, limiting yourself to writing a simple and concise investigation report can save you a lot of time and energy and can showcase a thoroughly conducted investigation while, at the same time, it can reduce the need for follow-up work. Even the most experienced investigators sometimes forget the importance of the final investigation report so here are few tips and trips on how to structure your report and make it clear and effective.
What is an Investigation Report?
An investigation report can be defined as ‘’a document written to inform a concerned party about a certain incident that has occurred and the actions that might be taken regarding the situation’’.
Investigation reports can be compiled and written by investigators or other authorized persons working for the police and other law enforcement institutions. In majority of cases, investigation reports are kept in archives of certain institutions and are used when there is a need for some information or clarifications.
How to Format and Structure an Investigation Report?
There is no determined investigation report writing format. However, to keep your report clean and concise as possible, it is important that you stick to a structure. The basic step when starting an investigation report is outlining and here is the most basic example of an outline that your report should contain:
- General case information which includes the name of person reporting, case number and important dates.
- Summary or a short overview of the incident, persons involved, causes or outcomes.
- Recommendations on what future measures and actions should be taken.
- The purpose of investigation to define the objectives.
- Incident description providing a complete chronological overview of incident that took place.
- Interviews documentation providing detailed information on the interviews.
- Interviews summary showcasing the most important information collected during interviews.
- Evidence and other findings to present information that led to understanding the situation and finding a necessary solution.
- Conclusion to present a final decision on a case, including summary of information about a certain crime and next steps to be applied.
- Appendices to incorporate or include any additional materials collected during the investigation.
How to Write an Investigation Report?
When writing an investigation report it is important to get straight to the main idea at the very beginning since majority of those who actually read the report stop on the recommendation sections. Therefore, the general case information that you include in your report should be simple, brief and to the point.
It is not necessary to add too many details here except for the date and a timeline and chronology about an incident. It is important that a reader can quickly comprehend what happened at a particular time. In the best case, summary of your report should basically fit into one or a few paragraphs if there is a lot of data and information that should be synthesized. In the recommendations section you will state what should be done in the future based on information you provided in the report.
It is important to make sure that the report is written in a simple language. However, be careful not to simplify everything you write. Make sure to write in a comprehensive way and pay attention to the jargon. Often it happens that when we are deeply engaged in one area we start using words that are non-professional and that others will have a hard time understanding. This especially applies to professionals in other areas who can find the jargon non-understandable or even apply a different meaning to it. Furthermore, if you find it hard to present certain information to the readers in a simple sentence, try presenting it in a few clear and brief sentences. This is necessary to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations.
Investigators usually find themselves busy and, in a rush, around ‘’the real action’’, while the last thing on their mind is writing down the investigation report. Reporting is usually the final stage of investigation which many find to be time-consuming and even boring. To avoid spending a lot of time on reporting, many investigators use report templates that come in handy during the report outlining stage. Templates do save up some time; however, reporting still represents a great amount of work. Thus, to save up some time you can read a few examples of reports written earlier by your colleagues, which can help you in outlining your own report and present the important information in a proper way.
During the writing stage make sure to structure and organize your report in a way that even someone who barely has any knowledge about a certain situation or event can understand it. Also, make sure to keep your objectivity and avoid any behavioral interpretations of information to show that you are unbiased. Be answer to questions ‘’when, what and how’’ since this is what every reader has to understand when reading the report. Last, but not least, leave some time to proofread your report to ensure that you sound professional and that all the points you outlined are consistent, clear and logical.
Why are Investigation Reports Important?
Investigation reports are important for the simple fact that they help to solve crimes that took place and put the perpetrators in the prison. However, investigations are not only conducted by the police, but they can also take place at companies and organizations that have their own specialists who are in charge of resolving issues. These issues often include minor flaws, complaints and violations at the work place. Companies resolve these issues in accordance with their policies relying on investigation reports that help to take preventive measures. In some cases where there is a violation of a certain law the issue is handled by the law enforcement agencies during a criminal investigation. Investigation reports play a great role here by helping to detect a culprit. Thus, writing of an investigation report should be approached seriously since a poorly written report can weaken the case entirely.