Issue 39 October 2021 - Journal - Page 42
l been sceptical in your reading, accepting nothing at
with what can seem like information overload, I
applied a method I used for a number or years. This
method bears the acronym PEACH. I would already
have my list of the points I wanted to discuss as part of
the intellectual process. Having identified a point, I
then look for the evidence to either support or refute
the point. Next, I analysed the evidence and came to
my conclusion. I would finally highlight the conclusion of each of my points in the summary section,
which usually sits towards the front of your report
together with your introduction.
face value, interrogating the evidence and posing
questions as you go along;
l evaluated, analysed and interpreted the evidence,
that is, assessed its value, examined every element, and
explained its meaning.
You will need to research the literature, which will
make you familiar with current thinking and will aid
your understanding of this. It is often useful at this
stage to bring together the evidence you have collected and to compare and contrast it with what your
research has revealed. When trying to handle a lot of
evidence it often helps to organise it thematically.
Comparing and contrasting, and grouping evidence
thematically can be an enormous help when you come
to the discussion section of your report.
I have come across so many reports that are confused
and confusing because the author has not adopted a
logical approach, and where the title of their sections
bears little resemblance to the content.
It is important that whilst writing your report you use
reasoning that is both logical and sensible, when
reaching your conclusions. Your conclusions must
always flow from and be supported by your arguments
Having completed all of the above, and satisfied yourself that you now have a firm grasp of the case in hand,
you are now ready to put pen to paper, or fingers to
keyboard, and start work on your report, but not before you have given serious thought to the layout, the
framework or skeleton on to which you are going to
add the flesh.
Try to remember that how your report is received by
its intended audience depends to a large extent upon
how easy it is to read.
If your report were a building then so far you have
constructed the framework and assembled the materials you are going to use; now it’s time to add the
brickwork. Words, the order in which you arrange
them, punctuation, and tenses of verbs all make up
the solid structure of your report.
(It is assumed that your reports are where necessary
Civil Procedure Rules compliant and that they therefore contain every element that is required under the
rules, so I don’t need to mention them.)
To aid the reader, you should incorporate plenty of
white space into your reports. Cramped text, especially in a small font, is difficult to read. You should develop a consistent hierarchy of when you use upper
case, lower case, bold, or underline for your headings.
There is no such thing as a report writing style, except
that they should always be very clear, concise and correct. Reports should be written using familiar words
and plain English. Jargon and technical terms will
have to be used, but should always be explained in a
very easy to understand layman’s language. Your
reader may be highly educated but not in your particular specialism.
If your report is going to be a logical examination of
the subject under investigation, then I recommend
the body of your report is set out as follows:
l a synopsis of the evidence. This can be as long or as
short as you think is necessary, but it should always be
limited to pure statement of fact and must not include
any discussion or opinion;
Keep sentences short. Stick to one point per paragraph. Be consistent in your use of punctuation, but
try to limit its use, because its incorrect use can often
change the meaning of a sentence, phrase or clause.
l the evaluation, analysis and interpretation of the evidence. As with the previous section, you must not
stray into discussion or opinion;
The following is a brief summary of how and when
punctuation should be used:
l a full stop marks the end of a sentence;
l your discussion. This is where you set out the range
of opinions, various arguments, interpretations,
approaches etc., as well as setting out the strengths and
weaknesses of each (I will say more about the
discussion section below.);
l a colon is used at the front of lists or to introduce a
statement in front of the list;
l your conclusion(s);
l a semicolon can be used to separate items in a list, to
divide a sentence, and to list groups of words;
l your recommendation(s). This section is self
comma is used in complex sentences to separate
clauses, and between single word items in a list.
l To assist the reader it is wise to include a glossary of
If punctuation baffles you, then I suggest sticking to
full stops, colons at the start of lists, and commas but
only if you really have to.
The discussion section is probably the most difficult to
write, but almost certainly the most important. It is
often the one that poses the greatest problems, especially for inexperienced experts: many experts do not
make it absolutely clear to the reader what is fact and
what is opinion. To stop becoming too bogged down
EXPERT WITNESS JOURNAL
The nomenclature of verb tenses has changed since I
was at school, but I must admit I still use the old terms
because I know what they mean. You don’t necessarily have to know their names to use them correctly, but
it helps. There are five tenses:
O C TO B E R 2 0 2 1