5 Tips on How to Write an Effective Investigative Report

A private investigators desk close up shot of a top secret folder, passport, money in multiple currencies, ammo, a map and a film spullA degree of professionalism must be achieved at all times if you expect to gain respect and retain clients as a private investigator. And, although professionalism is most often about how you conduct yourself, it is also about the reports you produce for your clients. As such, it is important to pen a case report that is well-written and free of blatant errors.

It is important to look at your case reports not just as a communication tool, but as a marketing tool, as they clearly reflect you and your business. Whether you are working for private clients or attorneys, a well-written investigative report plays an important role in your overall image, so you must be able to nail it every time. Here’s how to write an investigative report:

Pay attention to spelling and grammar.

If you need to look up a word to spell it correctly, take the time to do it. Make sure that all the names and locations are spelled correctly. And, by all means, take advantage of the spell check and grammar check on your word processing program. (You’d be surprised at how many people fail to do so!)

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If spelling and grammar aren’t your strong suit, enlist the help of a solid proofreader to look over all reports before you send them out. Or, look into attending a business writing class at your local community college. Glaringly poor spelling and grammar do nothing for your image, and it gives clients a poor perception of the services you provide, regardless of how good you are at your job.

Just the facts, please!

Providing opinions or conclusions in your case report is never a good idea. Your job as a private investigator is to present the facts; let the clients come to their own conclusions based on the facts in your report. Don’t use extraneous words in your report, either. Make it clear, concise, and to the point, and avoid using any type of jargon. If in doubt, always use action verbs to write your report, as this will ensure that it is easily readable.

Writing to Persuade.

The sole purpose of writing an investigation report is to persuade someone to take an imperative action! The report should be compelling enough for the reader to take any action that is required. The extent to which the investigator strategically intervenes depends on how persuasive the report is.

Investigative Report Writing “Musts”

An investigative report must have a perfect strike between being comprehensive and concise. It must be organized and readable such that anybody internally or externally can understand it without having to refer to other materials to gather more information. 

The report must document investigative findings objectively and accurately so that there is enough information for the decision-makers to determine whether they should take further action. And most importantly, the report must indicate whether the allegations were substantiated or whether there’s something missing.

Whether the evidence of the facts being investigated are contradictory or contested, the investigator must decide which version of these facts should take precedence by weighing the balance of probabilities and provide reasons as to why the basis of that conclusion.

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Check the report before sending it.

After you have written, proofread, and saved the document, it is always a good idea to give it one, the last look before sending it off to the client to ensure the document is properly formatted, saved, and ready to go.

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