investigation report

How to write an effective investigation report

How to write an effective investigation report

Investigative report writing is a critical skill for investigators. Storytelling and simplicity can be key to getting it right.

Nailed it! How to write investigative reports using Story telling and SACS.

When I speak to clients there are three things they want from an investigator, great interpersonal skills, timeliness and a quality investigation report.

Investigation reports are the tool by which nearly all your investigative efforts are judged. If you can’t write in a clear and concise manner, it doesn’t matter how brilliant the investigation. Reports are reviewed, assessed, summarised and critiqued by many people before the decisions they inform are acted on. Each person who uses the report must be able to quickly determine if the questions they have are answered in the report and whether there are any outstanding issues raised in the document.

Combining the four SACS principals with effective story telling techniques can help create the perfect report, giving you the confidence that you have nailed it.

What do you mean by storytelling?

The report is a reflection of the investigation and the events being investigated, together they constitute The Story. To reflect the information effectively, storytelling techniques can be used to convey the background and context surrounding the case and to outline key relationships between characters. Good story telling paints pictures that are easily retained by the reader making the details easier to remember which is especially important when the events get complex or readers have very little time to digest the report.

Think about the story in the order of presenting the evidence from witnesses, a good report doesn’t list the evidence in chronological order of interviews or alphabetical order of witness names, it presents the evidence in order to tell the story as efficiently as possible.

What is SACS?

SACS is an acronym for the four principles that can be used to write effective investigation reports.

  • Sufficient
  • Accurate
  • Clear
  • Simple


Reports must demonstrate that sufficient investigation has taken place to reach fair and informed decisions. Cover this in the methodology section and account for inquiries that were not made so those questions are answered.

If making findings or reaching conclusions, ensure that there is sufficient evidence to support your conclusions. There must be sufficient evidence of weight to make a finding having regard for the Briginshaw Principal if you are deciding an administrative case.


When presenting evidence, a report must accurately reflect the evidence provided both in its content and meaning. Don’t let your biases or findings detract from the accurate representation of an individual’s evidence. Be particularly careful not to present quotes out of context and misrepresent the evidence. When it comes to numbers, accuracy and detail are essential – don’t round things up or down, be precise.

You are morally obligated to present both the witnesses who can give clear inculpatory evidence as well as those witnesses who were confused and confusing and who’s evidence maybe undermines your findings.


The role of the report is to set out clearly, what events have taken place and the evidence available to assist decision makers with actions arising from the report.

To help bring clarity, determine a structure for your report at the outset, use headings to highlight the structure. Think of the best way to tell the story, and remember, every story is different so sticking to a fixed format for every investigation may not work.

Clarity is often helped by sticking to the fourth principal – simplicity.


Keep your reports at the minimum required to provide the information necessary for the purpose. Short reports with short sentences and lots of headings are winners. Clearly labelled diagrams, photographs and tables also help to keep the presentation simple and clear. If you have said it once in a table, do not repeat in long text.

Present only relevant evidence, don’t waste time discussing how a witness presented or describing their shifty body language, if the evidence doesn’t support your story, no amount of suspicion will give you the required standard of proof, the balance of probabilities.

Effective reports present the overall Story of the case, through simple and concise language, whilst detailing the specific evidence of individuals and documents and reaching clear conclusions. Through applying Storytelling with SACS principals, you can create investigation reports that put everyone in the picture.


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  1. Pingback: How to prepare a cost estimate for an investigation | MyKludo Academy

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