What are the characteristics of a high quality forensic evaluation report?
Organization and Style
- Uses language that minimizes the potential for bias or the appearance of gratuitous evaluative judgments.
- Uses language that will be understood by non-clinicians, taking care to simplify complex concepts and professional technical terms.
- Attending to professional appearance of the document, avoiding typographical errors, incomplete sentences, and colloquialisms.
- Obtaining and reporting all data that would be important when addressing the referral question.
- Reporting only those data that are relevant for the forensic referral question.
- Clearly identifying the sources of various data as the data are described.
- Avoiding the inclusion of self-incriminating data in pre-trial reports of evaluations involving defendants with open criminal charges.
- Including multiple sources of data, whenever possible, when describing events, behaviors, and examinee attributes.
- Report efforts to obtain data that ultimately were not obtained and may have been relevant for the case.
Psychological Test Reporting (Data and Interpretations)
- When psychological test data are obtained from past records, only those data that are relevant for addressing the clinical or forensic questions in the case are reported.
- Employing psychological tests based on appropriateness for addressing the forensic and clinical referral questions.
- When reporting test data, identifying scores and offer explanations of their normative meaning, but not describing them as attributes of the examinee.
- Offering interpretations of tests only when the test is appropriate for the circumstances (e.g., examinee age and race; validity demonstrated in the forensic context in question).
- Scoring and interpreting psychological tests accurately and consistent with their empirical limits and values.
Interpretations and Opinions
- Addressing the forensic question that was asked in the referral process.
- Addressing only the clinical and forensic questions that were asked in the referral process.
- Providing a clear explanation for every important opinion or conclusion that is offered, summarizing the relevant data and how they logically support the opinion.
- Identifying alternative interpretations that might be considered, and explaining how the data were used to weigh these interpretations against the opinion you are offering.
- Describing any important ways in which the data or interpretations leave room for error or alternative interpretations against the opinion being offered.
- Producing interpretations and opinions that are logical and internally consistent (not contradictory).
- Using multiple sources of data to seek support for a hypothesis.
- When opinions or recommendations require specialized knowledge (e.g., medical conditions or their treatment), expressing opinions only on matters for which the evaluator is qualified and competent.
- When using examinee self-reported data as a basis for an opinion, offering the opinion only when other reasonably reliable sources of data offer corroborative or logically consistent support.
(Open Access Journal of Forensic Psychology, http://www.forensicpsychologyunbound.ws/ – 2010.2: 102-115, Guidance for Improving Forensic Reports: A Review of Common Errors, Thomas Grisso, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA)