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How to Write the Investigation Report

Nobody likes writing reports. Nobody really likes writing anything; this applies to professional writers as much (if not more) than to the rest of us who have to write to communicate, on top of our other responsibilities.

Fortunately, there are some ways of making it a relatively painless process – and a good thing too, because writing the report is absolutely crucial to any investigation.


In fact, you wouldn’t be far wrong if you defined the report as the most important component of your investigation. It’s the bit that communicates your findings. The bit that explains what went wrong. The bit in which you express your recommendations.

And the bit which can change the future – for the better.

That, after all, is the whole point of investigating in the first place.


The first thing to remember is that when you’re writing an investigation report, you’re trying to persuade someone to do something. Just like an advertisement or a direct-mail shot, you want the reader to get to the end of your report and take action. In this case, the action is: to put your recommendations into practice.

Before your reader can do that, therefore, they have to be persuaded.

And to be persuaded, they have to understand.


We’ve all seen that sort of writing:

For the purposes of a non-pre-scheduled process of elective rehydration by means of the ingestion of a pre-prepared alkaloid infusion delivered by an on-demand user-operated dose-consistent process, the victim was of necessity engaged in a stepwise incrementation of his personal potential energy quotient by means of a progressive elevation of his bodily mass using a pre-existing manual-process “step-and-riser” system originally installed at facility commissioning in accordance with standards then operative in workplace standards & facilities standards currently pertaining. During this process, said victim 
experienced an unpredicted decrement in personal adhesion due to a local area of out-of-specification frictional coefficient due to an adventitious “pooling” of non-pre-admixed solvent designed for subsequent admixture with an anionic/amphoteric surfactant product by a routine preventive anti-contamination operative, leading to said adhesion falling below the stress/shear tolerance necessary for the continuation of the said process. This was followed by a rapid non-linear reduction in potential energy and the resultant transductive process caused the application of kinetic but non-fracturing shear stresses to 
the victim’s dextro-patellar region and subsequent contusion and minor haematomata…

By which time you’ve long ago lost them. Easier, and just as accurate, to say:

The victim of the incident was going upstairs to get a coffee from the machine when he slipped on a puddle of water left by a cleaner and fell downstairs. He banged his knee in the fall, and bruised it.

..which is, of course, precisely what our phantom report-writer would say if you asked them, face to face, what had happened. People often write in an over complex, jargon ridden way because they think it sounds impressive. It doesn’t; it just confuses and irritates.

So, in general, the rule is simple: write it as you would say it. Writing isn’t magic. It isn’t special. It’s no more than a way of allowing people to hear what you are saying without being there while you say it.

We can break this down into a few simple components:

1: Keep it simple. That’s self-explanatory.

2: Avoid jargon & pomposity. Don’t forget: not everyone reading your report will be an expert in your field. They may not know the jargon. It doesn’t mean that professional jargon is wrong; just that it’s specialised. In a report, write for the non-specialist. As for pomposity… have a look at what you’ve written. Does it come across as really serious and important but you can’t tell what it means? Okay: it’s too pompous. Simplify. Talk straight. Plain words.

3: Keep It Active. Don’t say, “The man was bitten by the dog.” Say, “The dog bit the man.” The first way is called the “passive voice” and usually is a way of keeping yourself at arms’ length from what you’re saying. The end result lacks conviction and is unpersuasive. Which – since you’re writing to persuade -you don’t want.

4: Short Takes. This is an old newspaper anecdote. Reporters used to write their stories a sentence at a time. Then they’d hand it to the copy-boy. One sentence contained one statement. One paragraph contained one idea.

For the next idea, they’d start another paragraph.

It worked for them.

It still works for them.

It will work for you.

For example:

‘Bart Simpson, aka Nancy, Booked for Fringe’

Bart Simpson is to appear at the world’s biggest arts festival this year, it emerged yesterday’. Nancy Cartwright the voice behind the cartoon character, is to launch her debut one-woman show in Edinburgh this summer. The three-week run will be based on Cartwright’s best-selling memoir about her role as a spiky-haired tearaway, ‘My Life As A Ten Year Old Boy’. Her performance at the Assembly Rooms in August is expected to be one of the Festival’s hottest ticket sellers etc. (‘Aberdeen Press and Journal’ – Feb. 4th 2004)

5: Get A Second Opinion. If you can get someone outside your investigation, your department or, best of all, your industry, so much the better. If you can get a reasonably intelligent 12-year-old to read it, better still. The average senior executive wants something straightforward and unambiguous. That doesn’t mean they are stupid. Far from it; it just means that reading dense texts isn’t one of their skills. And why should it be? Nor do they have the time.  We understand, of course, that in many cases there are other considerations. Legal implications. Confidentiality. Trade secrecy. Fair enough; but, all the same, you will be able to find someone to cast an eye over your report, for sure. So please do so.


The other main thing which will help you write clear, pain-free, persuasive reports is following a clear and logical structure.

By this stage, you’ll have all the facts (or at least all the facts you’re going to get). You’ll understand the timeline and the sequence of events. You’ll have worked out your root cause analysis. And you’ll know what your recommendations are going to be.

So where do you start? You may have a company reporting form where you just fill in the blanks. In that case, fill them in. Job done (or you can use the Reporting Template on the Kelvin TOP-SET web site at

On the other hand, your investigation may be too complex to fit on the standard company form. What do you do if that’s the case?

Here’s a simple structure which will help you get the information across in a clear, logical and persuasive way. It’s not something we’ve made up. It’s standard. And we suggest that, if you follow it, you won’t go far wrong.

Summary The formal report and the news story are the only two human activities which start with the climax.

In this case, start with your summary of the incident. Keep it short, tight and clear.

Conclusions Next, set out the conclusions you reached in your investigation.

Recommendations Finally, lay out your main recommendations which will prevent this sort of thing happening again and which are, therefore, the whole point of the exercise.

Congratulations! You’ve now written the only bit of the report that 90% of people will actually read. All you have to do now is write the…

Main Report Which outlines everything in much more detail.

Notice that we are following that structure here. So now…here comes the Much More Detail.

SUMMARY In the summary, you explain briefly:

– Who was involved in the incident – What actually happened – When it happened – Where it happened and – Who you are (and why you are investigating it)

CONCLUSIONS In this section, you give a broad overview of WHY it happened. Summarise the immediate causes and the root causes and anything else you think is specifically relevant, but don’t go charging off into detail. That comes later.

RECOMMENDATIONS In the Recommendations, you are simply answering the question, “What now?” You might recommend changing procedures, re-training someone, installing new equipment; whatever it may be. For the sake of clarity, we suggest you link your recommendations with the causes which prompted them.

For example: “Root Cause #1: Driver of the trailer to be retrained. (Has ‘can do’ attitude and reluctance to listen to advice.)

Then your reader can not only see what you recommend, but why. Giving the reason makes it much more persuasive.

MAIN REPORT Now we come to the main body of the report. This expands on all the points in the initial part of the report. It, too, falls into clear sections, as follows:

1: Aims & Objectives Tell the reader what you were trying to do in the investigation (e.g. “The investigation was designed to get to the root causes of the fire in the Loading Dock”) and what you hoped to achieve by doing it. (e.g. “We intend, by addressing those root causes, to prevent similar and related incidents happening in the future.”)

2: Incident Description Describe precisely what happened, beginning with the initial incident statement and resisting the temptation to launch straight in with underlying or root causes or inappropriate detail. They come later. At this stage you should be objective. (e.g. Incident Statement – “Train ran off rail. Damage to property and potential injury.”) The Incident Description expands on that adding the rest of the detail which is 
known to be true.

Make sure you cover the Who, What, When and Where in your description, and add any significant and immediately striking factors which are known to be true. But this is not the place to go into your methods of investigation or your findings. They come next.

3: Methods of Investigation Begin this section by describing your investigation team: who it was made up of, their qualifications, their positions and anything else relevant about them.

Next, detail any site visits you made. Attach any photographs, diagrams or drawings you may have — but remember: many people aren’t skilled at reading engineering drawings or technical diagrams, and they may need some explanation.

Summarise any findings you may have made concerning documentation. You don’t, though, need to include all that documentation. It’s enough to say, “Permit to work had expired the previous week”. Just make sure you can locate it – or a copy of it – if you’re called upon to produce it (or you can include copies of documents, photographs etc as appendices). Summarise, too, the results of any interviews you conducted. Who did you talk to? Where? What was the relevant information the interviewee gave you? Again, no need to include the whole transcript or detailed notes – just be sure you can lay your hands on them if 
necessary. In all these cases, it’s worth noting the location of supporting data in your report; in the future, another investigating team may want to consult your own records and it will help them if they can find them as easily as you can. This section should also contain a summary of the details and the results of any simulations, tests or reconstructions you did in the course of the investigation.

4: Findings This section is – as you’d expect – where you set out your findings. There are plenty of perfectly good ways of keeping your findings in some sort of logical order. The main thing is not to jump around all over the place like a cheap detective story; that just confuses. We find that ordering our findings in accordance with the TOP-SET headings is extremely helpful:

T ime, Sequence and History O rganisation / Control / Responsibility P eople and their involvement S imilar events E nvironment and its effects T echnology, equipment & processes

We’d suggest you use these as sub-headings, and you may even want to put your findings in the categories of the planning chart you will have used on the course.

Having set out your findings, also – as in the introductory sections – set out your:

5: Recommendations In this fuller version, you will want to address not only the root causes but also all the individual contributory causes you found along the way; they have to be dealt with also. In any case, once again, we suggest you tie in your recommendations to your findings and classify them under the TOP-SET headings/sub-headings, for clarity’s sake.

For example: T.3 Operating instructions or P.2 Activities and Tasks

APPENDIX We would seriously suggest that you should attach, as an appendix, a clearly drawn root cause analysis chart. This will clarify everything you have said in the previous pages of your report, and, as you yourself will have seen, a well-drawn-up root cause analysis is something that even someone completely unfamiliar with the incident can come to afresh, read through, and understand.

That’s all there is to it. Follow this structure and much of the drudgery will be taken out of report-writing

Want to learn more? – Buy   The Practical Handbook of Investigation   – A fantastic resource packed full of hints and tips designed to aid any investigator.

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What is an Investigation Report and How to Write One? [2023 Guide]



Investigation reports are crucial documents that serve as a record of the findings and conclusions reached as part of an investigation. Whether you conduct an investigation within your organization or you work as a private investigator, compiling a thorough investigation report is essential in order to efficiently communicate your findings and recommendations with the relevant stakeholders.

In this blog article, we will cover the key elements of an investigation report as well as provide practical tips on how to write an investigation report that meets the needs of your audience. Let's start by covering some basics.

What is an investigation report? What is the added value of an investigation report? What should be included in an investigation report? 10 steps towards writing a comprehensive investigative report How ZyLAB ONE can support your investigation efforts?

What is an investigation report?

An investigation report is a document that provides details on the findings of your investigation - be it a simple workplace one, or a more complex criminal case. When you write an investigation report, be sure to include all pertinent information about the case and any evidence that was gathered. 

What is the added value of writing an investigation report?

An investigative report is important, because it serves as a written record of an entire investigation and can be used in court as evidence documentation. Other benefits of writing an investigation report include: communicating your investigation findings clearly to a judge or jury as well as coming up with the right recommendations for further action based on the key findings.

Moreover, investigation reports can help promote a common understanding of the situation among stakeholders, and even prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future, if recommendation are implemented efficiently. Through the investigation process, you may also identify areas of your organization that require improvement, such as policies or procedures. By documenting these findings in the investigation report, you can help to ensure that these issues are addressed and corrected.

What should be included in an investigation report?

Efficient investigation reports should consist of the following sections:

Executive summary: should represent a concise overview of an investigation from A to Z. This section should not contain any information that is not already covered within the investigative report itself. As most people reading an investigation report, most of the time do not go beyond executive summary, it is crucially important that the executive summary section covers the key takeaways related to the allegations, investigation, and outcome without having to dive deeper into the details.

Preliminary case information: this section should cover the most important information related to the case and is usually displayed either before or after the Executive Summary. Make sure to record the following information: your name and investigator identification number; the case number; the date that the case was assigned to you; when the report was reviewed; how the report was received (i.e. hotline; email to HR, verbally, etc.).

If the reporter of the incident is an employee, record their: name; email address; job position or department; hire date; hire code; location; employee identification number. If the reporter is not an employee, having their email address and personal phone number is enough.

Incident summary: the goal of an incident summary is to answer the who, when, where, what about the reported incident. As part of this section, be sure to provide clear input on the following matters:

  • What type of incident is it? - e.g. harassment, discrimination, fraud, or other workplace misconduct
  • Who is the alleged victim?
  • Who is the subject of the investigation?
  • What are the parties involved?
  • Where and when did the incident occur?
  • Delineate the details of the allegation - i.e. describe the allegation in simple and clear language that is understandable across your organization and to all relevant stakeholders and parties involved.

Allegation subject: this section aims to highlight details about the alleged subject of the investigation. For every alleged 'bad actor', include the following details: name; email; phone number. If the subject happens to be an employee of your organization, include their employment status; job seniority/ position; job code; hiring date; business location; employee identification number.

Investigation details and notes: start this section by defining the scope of the investigation. Next, record in details each action undertaken during the investigation and mention who it was performed by, when, and what consequences it had. Consider structuring this section by: type of action (e.g. initial review, meeting, contacting parties, conducting an interview, etc.); person responsible for the action; date and time when the action was performed; short description of the action (i.e. who you met with, where, and for how long). Be sure to include all the possibly relevant information related to the investigation within this section, as it might be a useful resource in case you ever need to refer back to the full details of your investigation . Investigation interviews: with each and every interview that you conduct as part of your investigation, it is important that you create brief outlines of each interview, covering details such as: who conducted the interview; who was interviewed; where and when the interview took place; and summary of the key points discussed. Make sure you assess the credibility of each interview subject.

Some questions you might want to address in that regard: - Is the testimony believable at face value? Does it make sense? - Does the person's demeanour suggest you anything? - Does the person have a motive to falsify? Do they feel threatened for any reason? - Is there a witness or physical evidence that validates the person's testimony? - Does the alleged subject have a history of similar behaviour in the past?

(Physical) Evidence: this section is aimed at describing all the evidence you have obtained throughout your investigation - e.g. video or audio footage; email and messaging records; (physical) documents; computer and other device login records; etc. Number each piece of evidence for easy reference within your investigation report.

Recommendations and Conclusions: in the last section of your investigative report, you should provide comprehensive answers to all the questions you've set yourself at the beginning of the investigation. As an investigator, you want to include all conclusions that are defensible, and supported by relevant evidence documentation.

Depending on the outcome of your investigation, you might want to provide recommendations to the organization on how to proceed with the alleged subject of the investigation and the alleged victim.

Appendices: the investigation report concludes with appendices, where any supplementary information related to case that was not essential for the core section of the investigation report, yet still relevant, is listed.

10 steps towards writing a comprehensive investigative report

Investigation reports tend to be a time-consuming and tedious task for corporate investigators. Consider following these ten best practices next time you are faced with writing an investigation report.

Consider your audience

Before delving into writing your investigation report, consider the audience who will be reading your report. Depending on their function, level of expertise and involvement, you might want to tailor the language and the complexity of your writing to meet their needs and expectations.

Clearly define the purpose and scope of the investigation report

To keep your investigation report relevant and focused, define its scope and purpose clearly. Here are some extra steps that you should consider:

  • Identify the problem or issue that the investigation conducted will address;

Identify the stakeholders who will be impacted by the investigation findings;

Determine the desired outcome of the investigation;

Organize the information you gather in a standardized format

Using a standardized format when organizing your information can help ensure that your investigation report is clear and easy to follow. Consider using headings, subheadings, and bullet points to structure the report efficiently. There are several commonly used investigation report templates that you might look into:

5W + H: this template includes the key elements of who, what, when, where, why, and how. It can be useful for investigations that focus on a specific incident or issue.

Incident report: this template is commonly used for workplace incidents and focuses on describing the incident and documenting witness statements, evidence, etc.

Root cause analysis: for investigations that focus on identifying the root cause of a problem.

Ensure confidentiality

In case the investigation contains sensitive information, take steps towards ensuring confidentiality of your interviewees. This might imply using pseudonyms or redacting the confidential information from the report.

Follow a timeline

If the investigation involves a timeline of events, it might be smart to create a visual timeline to accompany the investigation report. This will make it easier for readers to understand the sequence of events.

Use visual aids

Similarly, engaging visual aids might be helpful in illustrating the investigation findings. Consider using graphs that would support your investigation claims and findings and help readers better comprehend the full picture.

Check for biases

When listing the findings of your investigation, be aware of any biases that might influence the investigation conclusions. That said, you might want to look for alternative explanation for the evidence gathered.

Acknowledge limitations

Be transparent about any limitations in your investigation - if there are any gaps in the evidence or limitations in the scope of your investigation, make sure to mention them within your report.

Be objective

When compiling an investigative report, you have to ensure that you stay objective and only stick to the facts that are supported by evidence in your writing. Avoid making assumptions or drawing conclusions that are not supported by evidence.

Use AI-driven eDiscovery technology

Gathering relevant electronic data is a must when performing internal investigations and when subsequently creating an investigation report. Hence, eDiscovery solutions can be considered extremely helpful when it comes to investigation reports in several ways, namely it helps:

Identify relevant data sources - this can include emails, text messages, social media posts, and more.

Collect and preserve data that has been identified - eDiscovery tools can help to do that in a forensically sound manner.

Process and analyze data - eDiscovery tools can help to process and analyze large amounts of electronic data quickly and efficiently.

Review and categorize data: After the data has been processed and analyzed, eDiscovery tools can be used to review and categorize the data based on its relevance to the investigation.

Produce reports: Finally, eDiscovery tools can be used to produce investigative reports summarizing the relevant electronic data and its significance to the investigation.

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12 Tips for Writing an Effective Investigation Report

Step-by-step instructions to create a stellar report

For many new investigators, writing the final investigation report is a dreaded chore. They rush through the process, cobble together the information from documents and files, and end up with something that is either too long-winded, too vague or misses relevant information.

Seasoned investigators know that the final investigation report is a perfect place to showcase the thorough investigation they conducted, present the facts to stakeholders in a way that makes the conclusion clear, and reduce the need for follow-up work. A great investigation report saves everyone time and effort by presenting all the necessary facts in a simple, clear and accurate summary. But even experienced investigators sometimes forget the importance of this final report in the rush of getting to the next case.

Learn more: Read the Ultimate Guide to Writing Investigation Reports .

Keep Investigation Reports Simple, Clear and Accurate

Whether you are a new investigator, someone who conducts investigations occasionally or a seasoned investigator managing multiple investigations, you can probably use a refresher on the essentials of writing effective investigation reports . In this 10-minute video, employment attorney Xan Raskin discusses the elements of a stellar investigation report.

The video covers:

  • writing the introduction or overview
  • high-level summary or scope
  • documentation of evidence, including interviews
  • relevant policies and pivotal documents related to the complaint and whether to include attachments or incorporate the text into the report
  • summary, allegations and the factual findings
  • benefits of having an executive summary on top of all the interviews
  • conclusions
  • documenting credibility decisions
  • recommendations for corrective action
  • drafting pitfalls
  • drawing conclusions
  • communicating the report to management and third parties
Need a quick reference? Download our Investigation Report Writing Cheat Sheet .

Step-by-Step Investigation Reports

Top 10 Investigation Report Must Haves

How to write an investigation report that's clear and credible, what should go into an investigation report, getting the workplace investigation report right, 11 guidelines for conducting impartial internal investigations, how to write an investigation report that holds up in court, 4 steps to a winning workplace investigation report, related resources, expert answers to your top 6 employee complaint handling questions, hiring employees with disabilities: 4 best practices from top companies.

Open Education Online

How to Write an Investigation Report

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.

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22+ Investigation Report Examples in PDF | Google Docs | Pages | MS Word

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Investigation Report

22+ investigation report examples, 1. hr internal investigation report template, 2. construction incident investigation report, 3. workplace investigation report template, 4. hr investigation report template, 5. audit investigation report template, 6. hr investigation report form, 7. compliance investigation report template, 8. investigation report template, 9. accident incident investigation report template, 10. presentence investigation report template, 11. incident investigation report template, 12. free accident incident report template, 13. sample accident investigation report, 14. incident investigation, 15. site investigation report, 16. soil investigation report example, 17. fire investigation report, 18. report of investigation, 19. preliminary investigation, 20. work place investigation report, 21. disciplinary investigation, 22. career investigation report pdf, 23. investigation progress report, what is an investigation report, importance of an investigation report:, how to write an investigation report, general faqs, 1. what is an investigation report, 2. what are the components of the investigation report, 3. what is the main purpose of an investigation report, 4. what are the different examples of investigations, 5. what are the steps of an incident investigation.

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Step 1: Keep the Purpose in Mind

Step 2: collect the information regarding the investigation, step 3: arrange the information into different sections, step 4: mind the tone and language, step 5: consider the length, step 6: state accurate facts, step 7: review the report.

  • Case Information
  • Referral source
  • Details of the accusation
  • Information about the subject
  • Investigation purpose
  • Interview reports
  • Recommendations.
  • Fraud investigations
  • Crime scene investigations
  • Accident investigations
  • Theft investigations
  • Assault investigations
  • Homicide investigations
  • Workplace investigations , etc.
  • Take immediate action
  • Plan your investigation
  • Collect the data
  • Analyze the data
  • Implement corrective actions
  • Report the investigation.

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9+ formal report examples, 9+ consulting report examples, 7+ activity report examples, 6+ examples of short report, what should be in an executive summary of a report, how to write a progress report, how to write an evaluation report, how to write an interview report with examples, 12+ financial report examples, 7+ marketing report examples.


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how to write an investigative report for school

What is an Investigation Report, and How to Write One?

  • Ossian Muscad
  • May 24, 2022
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What is Investigation Report and How to Write One

An Investigation Report is a formal document produced as a result of an in-depth inquiry or examination into an incident or series of events. It represents a factual record of the investigator’s activities, housing critical observations, evidence collected, and conclusions drawn throughout the investigation. The importance of an Investigation Report cannot be overstated. This document serves not only as a reflection of your professionalism and thoroughness as an investigator but also as a potential piece of evidence in legal proceedings.

Creating a well-structured, clear, and precise report is therefore essential. It ensures that all relevant details are properly documented, allows for a clear understanding of the events by a third party, and eventually assists in making informed decisions based on your findings. So, how do you go about writing one?

This article will delve into the crucial components of an investigation report, demonstrate how to structure one effectively, and offer tips to enhance the accuracy and comprehensibility of your reports.

Key Elements of an Investigation Report

A comprehensive and detailed investigation report should include all the relevant information pertinent to the case. With that said, here are the key elements that should be included in your investigation report:

Purpose and Objectives

Understanding the Purpose and Objectives of your investigation is the first step in writing an effective report. This section should clearly define why the investigation was undertaken and what it aims to achieve.

Scope of the Investigation

The Scope of the Investigation outlines the boundaries or limits of the investigation. It includes specifics such as the incident’s location and time, the individuals involved, and the nature of the incident.

Background Information

Background Information provides context to your investigation. It may include details about the individuals involved, the location, previous incidents, or any other relevant history.


The Methodology section describes the methods and procedures used during the investigation. This may include interviews conducted, documents reviewed, or any other techniques used to gather information.

Findings and Evidence

Findings and Evidence form the core of your report. This section should clearly and objectively present all the facts and evidence you uncovered during your investigation.

Analysis and Interpretation

Analysis and Interpretation involve an in-depth assessment of the findings. Here, you should interpret the evidence, identify patterns, and make connections between the facts.


The Conclusions section is where you summarize your findings and indicate whether the initial objectives of the investigation were met.


In the Recommendations section, you suggest the next steps based on your conclusions. This could include actions to prevent future incidents or any corrective measures that need to be taken.

Executive Summary

Lastly, the Executive Summary is a brief overview of the entire report. It usually appears at the start of the report and summarizes the key points, including the purpose, methodology, main findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

Understanding the Investigation Process

Now that we understand the key elements of an investigation report, let’s delve into creating one. This involves five major steps: preparing for the investigation, conducting the investigation, analyzing the findings, drawing conclusions, and making recommendations. Each stage plays a vital role in ensuring the thoroughness and accuracy of your report.

Preparing for the Investigation

Proper preparation sets the stage for an effective investigation. This initial phase involves gathering all relevant information about the incident in question, establishing the objectives and scope of your investigation, and outlining your intended methodology. This rigorous and methodical approach ensures that you’re fully equipped to commence the investigation with a clear understanding of what you need to accomplish.

  • Define the Purpose and Scope: Before the investigation begins, clearly define its purpose and scope. This would include understanding what you’re trying to achieve and setting the parameters of your investigation.
  • Assemble the Investigation Team: Next, assemble a team of individuals who possess the necessary skills and knowledge for the investigation. The team could comprise experts in the field, witnesses, or anyone else who would add value to the investigation.
  • Collect Necessary Resources: Collect all the resources you would need for the investigation, such as documents, tools, equipment, etc. Preparation is crucial to ensuring a smooth and effective investigation.

Conducting the Investigation

Once you have everything in place, it’s time to conduct the investigation. This phase involves actively gathering information and evidence related to the incident.

  • Gathering Information: Start by gathering relevant information about the incident. This could include documents, physical evidence, or other information that will aid your investigation.
  • Interviewing Witnesses and Involved Parties: Interview all witnesses and involved parties to get their accounts of the incident. Their testimonies can provide valuable insights that will help you understand the incident better.
  • Documenting Evidence: Document all evidence you collect during the investigation. This might include taking photographs, making notes, or recording interviews. Remember, your report will only be as good as the evidence you gather.

Analyzing the Findings

Don’t just collect information; make sense of it. This phase involves analyzing all the evidence and information gathered during the investigation. You will need to piece together the facts and identify any patterns or connections that may exist between them.

  • Identifying Patterns and Trends: Once you’ve gathered all your evidence, identify any patterns or trends that emerge. This analysis can lead you to conclusions that were not apparent at first glance.
  • Assessing the Credibility of Sources: Assess the credibility of your sources to ensure the information you’ve collected is reliable.
  • Evaluating the Impact: Evaluate the impact of the incident. This will guide you in recommending appropriate measures to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

Drawing Conclusions

Once you’ve analyzed all the evidence, it’s time to draw conclusions. This phase involves synthesizing and interpreting your findings to answer the initial objectives of the investigation accurately. Keep in mind that your conclusions must be backed by solid evidence and presented objectively.

  • Summarizing Key Findings: After analyzing your findings, summarize the key points. This will provide a clear and concise summary of your investigation.
  • Addressing Root Causes: Identify and address the root causes of the incident. This will help prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

Making Recommendations

If required, make recommendations for any corrective measures or actions to be taken in light of your conclusions. These recommendations should be based on solid evidence and aligned with the objectives of the investigation. Avoid making any biased or subjective recommendations.

  • Suggesting Actionable Solutions: Based on your conclusions, suggest actionable solutions to address the issues identified during the investigation.
  • Prioritizing Recommendations: Prioritize your recommendations based on their potential impact. This will help decision-makers implement your suggestions effectively.

An effective investigation report requires a systematic approach and meticulous attention to detail. By following the steps outlined above, you can produce a comprehensive and accurate document that stands up to scrutiny.

Structuring Your Investigation Report

In any investigation report, a meticulous structure is just as vital as the content itself. A well-organized layout ensures readers can easily navigate the report, understand its context, and appreciate its implications. Here is a recommended structure for an investigation report:

This is the first page of your report, and it should include the title of the investigation, the date, and the name of the investigator or the investigation team. The Title Page is the report’s cover and should be visually appealing yet professional.

Table of Contents

The table of contents provides an overview of the different sections in the report, allowing readers to easily find specific information. Ensure that this section covers all the key sections of your report, including any appendices.

List of Figures and Tables (If Applicable)

This section enumerates all the figures and tables included in the report, along with their respective page numbers for easy reference. The purpose of this section is to provide a quick overview of any visual aids used in the report. That way, readers can refer to the figures and tables without having to scroll through the entire document.

The executive summary provides an investigation overview, highlighting key findings, conclusions, and recommendations. This section is dedicated to stakeholders who need a quick summary of the report without going through all the details.


The introduction sets the context for the investigation, presenting the incident that triggered it, the objectives, and its significance. Make sure the introduction is concise and provides a clear understanding of what the report will cover. Avoid using technical jargon or complex language in this section.

The main body is the core of your report. It includes the biggest chunk of information regarding your investigation. This section is where you present your findings, analysis, and conclusions. Make sure to use appropriate headings and subheadings for each section to make it easier for readers to navigate.

The main body includes the following sections:

  • Purpose and Objectives: The aim of the investigation is to thoroughly examine and understand the subject matter, with the ultimate goal of achieving specific outcomes. Through careful analysis and research, the investigation seeks to uncover valuable insights, identify patterns or trends, and provide meaningful conclusions that can contribute to knowledge, decision-making, or problem-solving. By delving into the details and exploring various aspects, the investigation aims to provide a comprehensive understanding and potentially make valuable contributions to the field of study.
  • Scope of the Investigation: The scope of the investigation entails providing a comprehensive description of the extent and limits within which the research will be conducted. This includes defining the specific parameters, objectives, and areas of focus that will guide the investigation process.
  • Background Information: It is crucial to provide pertinent facts and details that have led to the investigation. This will help establish the context and provide a comprehensive understanding of the situation.
  • Methodology: In this section, provide a detailed explanation of the methods and techniques employed to conduct the investigation. Discuss the specific steps taken, data collection procedures, analysis techniques, and any relevant tools or software utilized. The methodology should be comprehensive and transparent, allowing readers to understand and replicate the study if desired.
  • Findings and Evidence: This section aims to present the compelling evidence gathered during the thorough investigation. It includes detailed analysis, documented observations, and relevant data that support the conclusions drawn. By providing a comprehensive overview of the evidence, this report aims to facilitate a better understanding of the findings and their implications.
  • Analysis and Interpretation: In this section, provide a comprehensive discussion of the significance of the findings and what they mean in relation to the research question or objective. Explore the implications, potential applications, and limitations of the findings. Consider the broader context and existing literature in your analysis. This will help readers understand the implications of the study and its contribution to the field.
  • Conclusions: Based on the findings and analysis, it is essential to draw meaningful and actionable conclusions that can guide decision-making and provide valuable insights. These conclusions can help in understanding patterns, identifying trends, and making informed recommendations for further actions or improvements.

Based on your conclusions, suggest appropriate actions to address the identified issues or prevent similar incidents in the future. The Recommendations should be specific, measurable, and achievable, providing a clear pathway for stakeholders to implement them effectively. Avoid vague or generic recommendations and include a timeline for implementation if possible.

The appendices section includes supplementary documents or data that support your findings but are too detailed or lengthy to include in the main body. This may include graphs, charts, tables, or other relevant documents. Make sure to label and refer to them appropriately within the main body.

References (If Applicable)

In the references section, cite all external sources of information used in the investigation report. This ensures the report’s credibility and allows readers to reference the sources if needed. You don’t need to include references for internal documents or data generated during the investigation. Make sure to follow the appropriate citation format and be consistent throughout the report.

Writing Tips for a Comprehensive Investigation Report

Writing an investigation report doesn’t have to be daunting. With the right approach and some helpful tips, you can create an informative and comprehensive report. With that said, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Clarity and Conciseness

An effective investigation report must be clear and concise. Avoid long, complex sentences and dense paragraphs that may confuse your reader. Instead, use simple language and direct statements to communicate your findings. Remember, the goal is to provide information that is easy to understand and digest.

Use of Formal Language

Maintain a professional tone throughout your report by using formal language. Avoid colloquial phrases and idioms, and ensure your report does not contain any slang or jargon. If technical terms are necessary, make sure to provide a clear explanation or definition the first time you use them.

Maintaining Objectivity

Objectivity is crucial in an investigation report. Stick to the facts and avoid using emotive language or expressing personal opinions. This helps to uphold the credibility of your report and ensures that your findings are based on impartial analysis rather than personal bias.

Proper Citation and Referencing

Always attribute any external information or data your report uses to their original sources. This not only acknowledges the work of others but also allows readers to verify your sources if needed. Be consistent with your citation style throughout your report.

Proofreading and Editing

Before finalizing your report:

  • Take the time to thoroughly proofread and edit it. This will help you identify and correct any grammatical errors, inconsistencies, or unclear statements.
  • Consider asking a colleague to review your report for a fresh perspective.
  • Remember, a well-written report is not only professional but also easier to understand.

Sample Investigation Report

To provide further clarity, here is a sample investigation report. This example is for reference purposes only and should not be used as an official template:

This report presents the findings and conclusions of an investigation conducted into the data breach incident that occurred on May 15, 2022, at XYZ Corporation. The objective of this investigation was to identify the causes and consequences of the breach and to recommend preventive measures to avoid such incidents in the future.

The primary purpose of this investigation was to identify the root cause of the data breach at XYZ Corporation. The specific objectives were to evaluate the existing security measures , identify any weaknesses or vulnerabilities, and analyze the extent of the data breach.

The investigation focused on the security breach in XYZ Corporation’s IT department. The investigation did not cover other departments, areas, or functions of the organization.

On May 15, 2022, XYZ Corporation confirmed a data breach incident in which confidential client information was illegally accessed and stolen. Promptly, an investigation team was formed to ascertain the cause of the breach and determine preventive measures to avoid such incidents.

The investigation involved:

  • A detailed analysis of the server logs.
  • Conducting interviews with key personnel.
  • Reviewing the existing security protocols and systems.

Additionally, third-party cybersecurity experts were consulted to assist with the technical aspects of the investigation.

The investigation revealed a malware attack was behind the data breach. The attackers exploited a security vulnerability in one of the software applications used by the IT department. Server logs revealed unusual activity , and subsequent analysis confirmed the penetration of malicious software. Interviews with staff indicated a lack of awareness surrounding phishing attacks, suggesting a potential avenue through which the malware could have been introduced.

The analysis indicates that the breach was a result of a combination of software vulnerability and human error. The lack of awareness among staff about phishing attempts and the existing security vulnerability in the software provided the perfect opportunity for the attackers. The breach resulted in losing valuable client data, potential reputational damage, and possible legal implications for XYZ Corporation.

The data breach at XYZ Corporation was a severe incident that highlighted several weaknesses in the corporation’s cybersecurity measures. The lack of staff training on cybersecurity, coupled with a software vulnerability, were the main causes of the breach.

XYZ Corporation should immediately address the software vulnerability and ensure all systems are patched and updated regularly. Additionally, the organization should invest in regular cybersecurity training for all staff to increase awareness about potential cyber threats. A comprehensive review of the current cybersecurity policies and procedures should also be conducted to identify and rectify gaps. These measures should be implemented as soon as possible to prevent future data breaches.

Note that this report is not exhaustive and does not cover all possible recommendations. Additional preventative measures should be explored and implemented as deemed necessary. However, it does provide initial steps that can help you get started.

Using a Low-Code Platform for Investigations

Low-code platforms have emerged as a game-changer in many fields, including investigations. They offer a fast, efficient, and user-friendly way to conduct investigations and generate reports. Here’s how you can leverage a low-code platform for your investigative processes.

Efficiency and Speed

Low-code platforms are designed to streamline processes, making it possible to conduct investigations more efficiently. These platforms come with pre-built components and drag-and-drop interfaces, which enable you to configure and execute your investigation workflows with minimal coding. This can significantly reduce the time it takes to complete an investigation.


A key advantage of low-code platforms is their high degree of customization. You can tweak the platform to meet your specific investigation needs. Whether you need to create custom data fields, design unique investigation workflows, or generate tailored reports, low-code platforms provide the flexibility to do so.


Low-code platforms promote collaborative work by allowing multiple investigators to work on the same case simultaneously. Real-time updates ensure that all team members are kept in the loop about any developments or changes in the case.

Documentation and Reporting

With a low-code platform, you can automate the documentation process. The platform can automatically log all actions taken during the investigation, ensuring that your investigation report is comprehensive and accurate. Moreover, the platform can generate the report, saving time and effort.

Using a low-code platform for investigations can greatly enhance the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of your investigative process. Whether you’re a seasoned investigator or new to the field, low-code platforms offer a highly flexible and user-friendly solution to your investigative needs.

Streamline Your Investigations with DATAMYTE

DATAMYTE is a quality management platform with low-code capabilities. Our Digital Clipboard , in particular, is a low-code workflow automation software that features a workflow, checklist, and smart form builder. This tool lets you create a comprehensive investigation workflow with ease, enabling you to record and track each step of your investigative process.

DATAMYTE also lets you conduct layered process audits, a high-frequency evaluation of critical process steps, focusing on areas with the highest failure risk or non-compliance. Conducting LPA with DATAMYTE lets you effectively identify and correct potential defects before they become major quality issues.

With DATAMYTE , you have an all-in-one solution for managing your investigations and ensuring quality control. Our platform empowers investigators, making their work more efficient, accurate, and collaborative. Book a demo now to learn more.

A well-written investigation report is a vital part of any investigative process. It documents everything during the investigation, including evidence gathered, findings, analysis, conclusions, and recommendations. Having a comprehensive, clear, and accurate report not only provides a solid basis for decision-making but also stands up to scrutiny, even in legal contexts.

Leveraging the power of low-code platforms can further streamline this process, enhancing efficiency, customization, collaboration, and overall quality of the report. As investigators, it’s essential that we apply these insights and continuously improve our processes.

Every case we handle allows us to hone our skills and contribute to a safer and more transparent environment. Your role in this can’t be overstated, so continue to learn, adapt, and strive for excellence in every case you handle.

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How to Write an Investigation Report

Report writing

how to write an investigative report for school

To write a good investigation document, you need to understand how to present information efficiently and clearly. Below, you will find a detailed description of the types and formats of investigation reports, as well as writing tips and useful samples.

What Is an Investigation Report

According to a generally accepted investigation report definition, it is a well-structured text that includes the findings and evidence of a specific formal complaint or allegation. An investigator writes this report to inform a concerned party about a particular incident that has happened and possible steps that can be taken. Investigation reports are usually submitted after the receipt of a formal complaint and serve to define whether there is solid ground for inquiring into the allegation mentioned.

An investigation report can be prepared by an authorized person from the company where an incident has happened or detectives (private or from the police). Such papers are stored in archives. They can be retrieved if any information on the case is required. The size and scope of an investigation report vary depending on the kind of allegation or the complexity of the case studied. However, there are some must-have elements that you have to include in your document.

Video Guide on How to Write an Investigation Report

If you want to find out how to write an investigation report, you are welcome to watch this video guide. The expert on the video dwells on how to write a high-quality report even if you are going to do it for the first time. You will learn about common mistakes that may arise in the process of preparing the text, techniques for arranging collected data, as well as some spelling and punctuation guides.

Investigation Report Format

When you get down to investigative report writing, you should first figure out what elements your text will consist of. Though there are no strict rules concerning the structure, because the number of components depends on the size and type of a report, most documents include some of the elements mentioned below.

  • An investigation report usually starts with a cover page where you should present all the relevant case data in a concise way. Make sure to indicate a case number, date, place where the incident happened, and contact information of the people involved. When dealing with employee cases resolved within a company, it is necessary to include an employee’s name, ID number, job code, email address, and other identifying details.
  • An investigation summary is the core element of the entire document. People studying the case would probably pay the most attention to this part. You need to provide an in-depth description of the complaint or allegation in focus, a list of investigation activities, and a summary of findings. It is better not to mention here the secondary facts that may divert attention from the major issue.

If you still have a vague idea of what your summary should look like, you can write it step by step by answering such questions:

  • What happened?
  • When and where did it happen?
  • Who were the people involved?
  • How was the investigation process organized?
  • What were the findings?
  • Are the findings sufficient to confirm that the situation really happened?
  • What further steps should be taken?
  • If there are some important details about a complaint or allegation, you may create a separate section called allegation summary and include them in it. For example, you can write about witnesses, what events led to the incident, etc.
  • The paragraph with investigation findings is usually present in most reports of this kind. Your task is to summarize every aspect of your investigation in a concise and coherent manner. This resembles a blow-by-blow report of the case, underpinned by the key evidence that you discovered along the way. This section contains unbiased details and pieces of evidence relating to the incident.
  • An investigation report usually ends with a conclusion & recommendations. In this part, you need to explain to readers what prompted you to make a particular conclusion and why you believe the evidence supports or disproves the allegation or complaint. It is also important to include data that confirms that a person that testifies is credible and the incident is plausible. You can also state some facts that help people reading the report interpret the information the way you did it so that you're on the same page concerning the overall situation.

Types of Investigation Report

In general, three types of investigation reports can be differentiated.

Oral Report

As the name implies, an investigator presents the information verbally. You can also come across other terms denoting the same concept, namely, "verbal report" and "oral debrief." The biggest advantage of an oral report is that you need to spend less time preparing it. However, this doesn’t mean that you should not make notes or compile an evidence list. Of course, any serious case study involves managing documents, but for an oral report, the number of final papers is less extensive.

Oral debriefs also offer more flexibility for establishing a dialogue between an investigator and people listening to the report. For example, they may ask questions when the report is delivered in order to prevent misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Executive Summary

This type of investigational report is the most customizable. It can include the findings and the methodology used in the process or be expanded with detailed analysis, recommendations, and other sections. In other words, an investigator has total freedom to decide what information an executive summary will consist of. People frequently choose it for simple cases in order to save time.

Another reason to choose this type of investigation report is that all witness statements are kept secret, even if a document will be made public for additional investigation. Such an advantage is crucial because incidents usually raise sensitive issues, and revealing all details of the case can negatively impact a whole working environment, and witnesses in particular.

However, please keep in mind that an executive summary, similar to a verbal report, lacks a complete account of evidence and an in-depth analysis of the situation, so an investigator may fail to recall all the nuances of the process in the future if needed.

Investigation Report

Investigation report is an all-inclusive document that contains the data required to understand the essence of a formal complaint or allegation. Writing it, you need to describe the nature of the incident, the investigation scope, methodology, the whole list of evidence collected, the role of an investigator, and the findings.

Of course, it takes longer to prepare such a report. Besides, the procedure may entail higher expenses, especially if an investigator uses premium tools and methods for collecting information. However, with such a document, you may not worry that something important will be missing.

What Makes a Good Investigation Report?

When you write an investigation report, be clear and concise. To reach this goal, you need to:

  • Ensure the text is easy to read even if a person barely understands the specifics of the sphere. It is recommended to avoid passive voice, acronyms, terms, dubious explanations, and everything that causes confusion.
  • Make sure all facts are listed in a logical manner and the entire document is consistent. Read it several times, and if any questions arise about "who did what, when, where, and how," rewrite it.
  • Be objective when introducing findings. There should be no personal interpretations or evaluations of the event. An investigation report that sounds biased should be improved.

When you are done with writing, put your report aside and return to it after some time. Read it attentively and fix mistakes, if any. There can be something wrong with grammar or syntax, and it is paramount to submit a completely correct document.

Investigation Report Example

If you write such a paper for the first time, it is a good idea to use an investigation report template. Thus, you only need to fill out the data according to the provided layout. Also, you are welcome to check this professional investigation report sample and structure your information in a similar way.

If you worry that your investigation report doesn’t comply with established standards, feel free to get in touch with our experts. They will write a detailed, clear, and well-structured report in the shortest time possible. We have vast experience in writing investigation reports for different cases.

If you wish to check more samples of investigation reports, see the list below:

Investigation report: Education for the 21st Century

Investigation report: The Education Fellowship Trust

Investigation report: Park View Educational Trust

Investigation report: Perry Beeches The Academy Trust

Investigation report: Priory Federation of Academies Trust

Investigation report: The Silver Birch Academy Trust

Investigation report: Westfield Academy

Investigation report: Dunham Trust

Investigation report: E-ACT

Investigation report: Al-Madinah Free School

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Writing the Perfect Investigative Report

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Investigative reports are a P.I.’s work product and a key marketing tool. They should be accurate, logically organized, clear, and concise.

Investigative reports aren’t our work, exactly, but they ARE our work product. The “real” work (or at least, the fun part of the job) happens in the field. But the written report is how we communicate our findings and conclucions to the client.

The report is a statement of what the private investigator set out to accomplish, what he found, and conclusions drawn from the investigation. Organization, conciseness, clarity, and accuracy are the hallmarks of a good report. The written report should also be objective, accurate, understandable, and timely. It should tell a story.

Reports should contain just facts and not the investigator’s opinion, unless he or she was specifically asked by the client to provide a written opinion based upon the facts uncovered. Opinions are usually reserved for expert witnesses, scientists, and the client.

The investigative report turns actions into evidence. And it must clearly explain to the reader of the report, in the investigator’s absence, what information the investigator collected. 

The investigation report is also an integral part of marketing for private investigators . When done correctly, it’s your calling card — proof that you can not only produce results, but that you can think clearly and organize your thoughts and observations well.

In fact, the investigative report is so central to our profession that 200+ page books have been written on the subject. I would urge you to learn more by picking up a book or two specifically about writing reports.

I won’t belabor the topic further, but suffice it to say that you will be judged by your clients by your ability to communicate well in writing. That means that, at an absolute minimum, you must use spell-check, not confuse the words your and you’re ; to and too ; they’re , their , and there . And have another set of trusted eyes proofread your reports for grammar and punctuation. I’m not kidding. I’ve seen great investigators lose client after client because they did not learn to write at a high school level. 

If you were not the best student in English class (and who among us was?), do yourself a favor and find someone to proofread your reports and learn from your mistakes. Practice makes perfect. Enough said about that.

The following are key considerations in writing a good report:

Conciseness :  The best reports tell the complete story in as few words as possible, using just enough words to clearly convey a message.

Accuracy : The written report should clearly record or reference all pertinent interviews and observations. Information obtained during an investigation should be verified by as many sources as are necessary and reasonable to establish the validity of the information. Again, investigative reports should not contain personal opinions or views.

Style : The report should be written objectively in the first person or third person, which means that it should be written, “I observed a white female…” or “The investigator observed a white female…”  Avoid the use of investigative jargon; instead use everyday language that your client would use in his or her conversation with you.

Format : All investigative reports should be typed with justified margins and the pages numbered in a manner such as “Page 1 of 5.”  Regardless of the nature or subject of the report, each should at a minimum have the following parts:

  • Introduction or Premise – What was the nature and scope of the assignment?
  • Summary of the Investigation – Think of this as a book jacket summary — write it so the client can quickly understand exactly what’s in the report without reading the whole thing.
  • Identification of the Subject – Fully describe the subject of the investigation. This is the person, place or thing that the report is about. If the subject is a person, include full personal identifiers, if known, to positively identify him or her. If it is a building or object, you should accurately describe its location, color, size, features, etc.
  • Investigative Methods – This is a step-by-step, detailed account of your investigation and should include where you went, when you went and how long it took you, who you talked to, what you did, how you did it and when you stopped your investigative activity.
  • Conclusion or Results – What did you learn during the investigation, and what is the end product?
  • Professional Close – Thank the client, identify the investigator or investigators who contributed to the investigation, and specify who wrote the report.

You might also find it necessary to include:

  • Exhibits and Attachments – Here you can include photographs, records, important video still-frames and other items, documents or accounts of evidence you collected during the investigation. All attachments should be labeled or numbered and referred to in the body of the investigative report. If the resulting digital document is very large, you can reduce the file size of your investigative report by compressing the images and make it easier to email or save.
  • Witness or Contact List – It always helpful to maintain a list of people and their contact information with whom you spoke or had contact with during your investigation.

Lastly, consider the security of your finished investigative report! You don’t want to send an unprotected Microsoft Word (or other word processor) document to anyone. Check out this important article on the “ Security and Portability of your Investigative Reports ” when you’re through here. Don’t learn the hard way, like many others, that investigation agency clients have been known to alter the final report.

There are a “million ways to Sunday” to produce a professional investigative report, but organization, conciseness, clarity, and accuracy will keep clients coming back for more.

Five Fast Improvements to Your Investigative Reports

how to write an investigative report for school

To learn more about professional communication and report writing for private investigators, try PI Education’s course, The Elements of Effective Communication . It’s approved for CEs in AL, GA, IA, KS, KY, OK, OR, MN, MO, MT, NC, NM, SC, TN, TX.

Lastly, consider the security of your finished investigative report! This is a subject area that I find is not well understood by investigators. In he last week I have received two reports form investigators in the Word Format… I could have edited their reports and they would not have known what I did until they were being sued…

Great article, I’m a newly licensed NYS P.I. And would greatly appreciate some sample investigative reports for review.

Great article. Please send examples of reports. Thanks.

I’m a newly licensed (<1yr) P.I. in S.C. Could you send me an example or two of reports? Thanks in advance!

excellent information for writing a good IB report….. thanks..

Refreshed my mind on a lifetime of study. I look forward to using this information in the future.

Thanks Rick C.

Great article! Would enjoy sample reports

Thank you, Kenneth

From Paul Jaeb, Host of the American Private Investigator podcast: Nice job Scott – we all need to be reminded that our reports are our end product and are, more than anything, a reflection of our professionalism. One more note – the same care should be given to email communications. Too often we think that the same standards don’t apply. Well done my friend.

Great article. Keep up the Good Work P.M.! Please forward me some sample reports.

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I am a newly enployed investigative officer. Pls send me sample of a perfect report that can be tendered in law court for trial or prosecution. Thanks for the great work you are doing.

REMINDER: I am a newly employed investigative officer pls send me sample of a perfect report that could be tendered during trial or prosecution. Thanks for the great work you are doing

Thank u so much for ur good work on investigatigative sucour. i still want u to help form a group of investigator online so we can shar and learn at the same time. I will appreciate it. im an Internal Auditor with a pharmaceutical and deals on investigative matters most often.

I am a Private Investigator in Fl and would also Like to see some samples of reports.

I’ve been a PI for 25+ years and it is always great to get a refresher course on report writing. Great article!

Comments are closed.

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Writing the investigative story

By Châu Mai @maingocchau

After spending weeks, months or even years to do an investigation, you want to write an interesting story that makes readers really want to read it.

“Your goal is to pull people in and your second goal is to keep them there,” Seattle Times investisgative reporter Ken Armstrong said. 

He and Steve Fainaru, a senior writer with ESPN’s investigative and enterprise unit, shared their experience and tips in “ Writing the investigative story .”

Fainaru, a 2008  Pulitzer Prize winner for International Reporting, said the main thing he learned from covering private security contractors in Iraq was to take the time to exhaustively outline the story with as much detail as possible.

“Outlines help define what you want to say, and where you want to say it,” he said. “The more extensive, the better.”

Armstrong, who won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for investigate reporting, said if circumstances allow, write a story not an exposé and create suspense. He used the story “ Two cops, an ax and many questions on Bainbridge ” he wrote with Jonathan Martin,  The Seattle Times,  as an example.

It is about the death of a mentally ill man killed by police when police came to his house to see if he was okay.

Instead of writing it as a hard news story, he and Martin chose to introduce readers to all people related and their backgrounds.

Armstrong said by doing these things, they put two trains on the same track and they were heading towards each other. That left readers wanting to see how events unfolded, how the ax was to be used.

He also recommended using dialogue. Try to avoid bullets and formula, and sometimes using the pronoun “we” to “build a relationship with readers. You let them know that you have a shared interest,” he said.

When approaching the story, he suggested to inform a debate not describe it because “you want to get to where the truth lies.”

If you want to reach a bold conclusion after doing all that reporting, state it boldly.

“Don’t tiptoe,” Armstrong said. “You are doing readers a favor not giving any doubt about what the reporting has found.”

The five-time IRE winner also talked about one of the biggest challenges in writing an investigative story, which is “the goal to be transparent and what information we’re replying upon with the statement we are making.”

The problem is that attributions are getting in the way of the story and really kill the narrative. Armstrong recommended remove attributions from the narrative, and park them some place where people can find them.

Avoid letting the story dense with data and numbers, he said.

To improve his investigative writing skill, Armstrong’s tip was to try hard to write different kinds of stories such as profiles, feature stories, long-form narratives, books and fiction. He said this can help you avoid the trap of casting people in simplistic roles: villain or victim.

“All of those kills you are developing will come into play when you are writing your next investigative story,” he said. “Don’t limit yourself to investigative stories.”

Châu Mai is a graduate student at Emerson College Department of Journalism.

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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 spull

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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!)

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.

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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Report Writing for Investigators is a course designed for the continuing education of Private Investigators. This course encompasses topics to include case recording and note taking, how to write a successful investigative report and proofreading for accuracy and client instructions.

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Regents Exams May Become Optional for High School Graduation in New York

The tests had once been seen as a hallmark of academic rigor, but high-stakes graduation tests have fallen out of favor nationally.

Students sit at desks in a classroom.

By Troy Closson

New York could soon stop requiring many high school students to take Regents exams to earn a diploma, a major step in a sweeping overhaul of the state’s graduation system as it joins a national movement to rethink high-stakes exit exams.

For generations of New York students, the path to high school graduation has run through the Regents exams, which some students take as early as middle school. Reducing the role the tests play in graduation would be one of the biggest education policy shake-ups for New York in a decade.

On Monday, an advisory group formed by the state’s Education Department will recommend that all students be given options other than the exams to prove they have mastered material.

Students could still choose to take the Regents tests to graduate. But they would also be given new ways to show they are proficient in skills, such as capstone projects, presentations or “ performance-based assessments .”

The Regents exams, some of which must be offered under federal education law, have shaped classrooms statewide since before World War I and were once viewed as a model blueprint for rigorous standards. But high school graduation tests have fallen out of favor across the country over concerns that the mandates hurt disadvantaged teenagers.

Half the country required exit exams a decade ago. Today, New York is an outlier, joined by only a handful of other states, including Florida and Massachusetts.

Betty A. Rosa, the state education commissioner, said in a recent briefing with reporters that the Regents exams would remain one helpful measure of a student’s knowledge.

“But it’s just one moment in time,” Ms. Rosa said, adding that a better system would allow teenagers to demonstrate other strengths. “That for us is really the end goal,” she said.

Officials plan to create a timeline for implementing the recommendations by next fall.

To graduate in New York now, most students earn 22 credits, and pass five Regents exams in subjects like English, math and social studies. The tests — which typically run three hours — shape high school life across New York.

Teachers spend many hours preparing their classes. Some teenagers sit for the exams four or five times until they pass.

The proposed changes would once have been hard to imagine in New York, a steadfast champion of statewide testing and rigorous standards. A decade ago, the state embraced the Common Core, for example, a controversial set of English and math standards meant to raise academic levels.

But in recent years, it became unclear whether the state was actually boosting achievement and helping more students graduate prepared for college. Some research shows the Regents requirement in particular may have done little to improve outcomes. Instead, it may have led more low-income and Black students to drop out.

Now, Ms. Rosa said the state wants to tackle graduation “through the lens of students” who have faced barriers in “access and opportunities.” Education leaders have signaled support for the recommendations, and if accepted, the plan would immediately become Ms. Rosa’s farthest-reaching initiative as commissioner since she was appointed in 2020.

Some students already use other pathways to graduate, and a small group of schools were already exempt from most of the exams .

The proposals come as state education leaders wrestle with a dilemma: After students spend thousands of hours in school, what skills should they need to graduate — and how should they show they have mastered them?

Education leaders and advocates worry that standardized test scores can be influenced by a student’s income, cultural differences or other obstacles.

But critics of changing requirements say it is important to have clear ways to measure student progress and decide if students have met appropriate benchmarks for moving on to the next level in their education. Some also say there is a danger that more students of color could be pushed down less rigorous routes.

In Massachusetts , the teachers’ union has backed a bill to end the state’s exam mandate, arguing for a “fairer” approach that is “better suited” to teenagers’ current needs. But after Oregon said students would not need to show proficiency in reading, writing and math to graduate, many parents argued a diploma would lose value.

“We ask the K-12 school system to do lots of things,” said John Papay, an associate professor at Brown University who studies high-stakes testing. “One of the questions is ‘How do we have requirements ensure students leave high school ready to live productive lives?’”

On both poles of the debate, experts say teenagers who leave high school without enough preparation can face severe consequences later. For decades, scores of New York City students needed remedial math or English classes upon enrolling at local community colleges — tuition-based courses that often added to their debt, but did not count toward degree requirements.

David Steiner, a former New York state education commissioner, said he worries over the “catastrophic disconnect” between students’ post-high school plans and their incentives to have mastered material to achieve them.

“That was the great glory of New York’s system,” he said, adding that in many states, “what used to be called ‘failing’ is now called ‘passing’ — and when we stop telling ourselves the truth about how our students are doing, the only people we damage is our students.”

Ms. Rosa said New York’s planned overhaul is “really, truly not lowering standards” and would simply better address each student’s needs. State leaders will also consider several other major changes, including:

Adding new credit requirements in areas like “cultural competence,” financial literacy and writing skills.

Moving from a system where students can earn three different types of diplomas , including a Regents diploma, to a single diploma system with optional distinctions.

Creating distinct diploma requirements for teenagers with unique needs, like migrant students.

When changes roll out, graduation rates would be closely tracked.

The debate about Regents requirements was intensified by the pandemic, when some requirements were eased, and some groups like English language learners saw far better outcomes.

Some educators worried more teenagers were leaving school ill-prepared, but others believed the results were a sign that the state needed to reimagine the high school experience.

Alprentice McCutchen, a New Rochelle social studies teacher who was a part of the state group that made the Regents proposal, called the current requirements “draconian” and “highly problematic.”

He recalled students whose Regents exam performance could be hindered by obstacles in their personal lives, like upheaval at home the night before a test. “They feel inadequate. And that weighs on their self-esteem,” he said, adding that New York should be in step with “the needs of the 21st-century world.”

“Everybody’s not going to need algebra. Everybody’s not going to need historical dates,” Mr. McCutchen said. “But they will need to know how to problem solve and ask questions.”

Troy Closson is a reporter on the Metro desk covering education in New York City. More about Troy Closson

Politics in the New York Region

Dismissed Charges: A Republican councilwoman in Brooklyn who was arrested for carrying a pistol to a pro-Palestinian rally has had charges dismissed against her  after it was found that the weapon was unloaded and inoperable.

Montaukett Indian Nation: The Native American tribe from Long Island has fought for years for formal state recognition and won over the State Legislature. But persuading Gov. Kathy Hochul to grant the official status is proving harder to accomplish .

Clean Slate: Roughly two million people convicted of crimes in New York may be eligible to have their records sealed  as part of a broad criminal justice initiative that was signed into law on Nov. 16 by the governor.

George Santos: The House Ethics Committee introduced a resolution to expel the Republican congressman from Congress , citing the committee’s damning new report documenting violations of House rules  and evidence of pervasive campaign fraud.

A Far-Reaching Decision: The fight over one of the most consequential congressional battlegrounds in the nation has taken center stage in a staid courtroom in Buffalo , as New York Democrats try to redraw the state’s district lines once again ahead of the 2024 election.


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