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A Forensic Examination of Court Reports


Correspondence: Jane Goodman-Delahunty, Australian Graduate School of Policing and School of Psychology, Charles Sturt University (Manly Campus), PO Box 168, Manly, NSW 1655, Australia. Fax: +61 29934 4830; email:


Advice to professionals who conduct forensic evaluations for courts on how to write an effective report has been driven by legal evidentiary principles and best practices in assessment. Surprisingly, little attention has been paid to how salient information is integrated within a report, and how non-informational aspects of reports (e.g., order and format of information) may impact the fact-finding process. Experts are required to integrate both qualitative and quantitative information from a variety of different sources, with varying degrees of reliability and validity. Nevertheless, it is assumed that the trier of fact relatively weights and integrates the relevant information contained in a report in order to form a conclusion, and that this conclusion is then itself weighted and integrated with other evidence in order to formulate the final decision in a case. We apply theories and findings from the field of decision science to critically evaluate these assumptions and extend their application to outcomes of empirical studies on forensic reports. By drawing together the findings from these two areas of research, we identify research gaps and provide some recommendations on ways to structure and format expert reports to enhance their appropriate impact on the trier of fact.