How to Format an Investigation Report

by Jackie Lohrey; Updated September 26, 2017
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When an internal investigation leads to disciplinary or legal action, you'll need to write an investigation report to support your case. Presenting findings clearly and factually can build an indisputable record, while a badly written report has the potential to weaken your case. Every business owner should know what to include in an investigation report and what format it should take.

The Basics

An investigation report functions to supply facts and sometimes make recommendations based on facts and the nature of the allegations. Conciseness and objectivity are as vital as accurate information is to establishing credibility. A formal outline-style report written in the first person also adds credibility. For lengthy reports, a table of contents and numbered pages can make locating specific information much easier. Including a cover page, even for a short report, is important for information privacy.

Opening Sections

The first section of the report should include basic information, such as the sender and recipient’s names, and a topic line that identifies the subject of the investigation. In the second section, identify the complainant, describe the allegation or allegations, specify the inquiry’s starting and ending date and identify the sources of information and evidence used to conduct the investigation or compile the report. Bulleted lists are useful for making information in this section easier to read.

Investigative Facts and Findings

Present findings of fact in a bulleted list, in narrative paragraphs or a combination of both. Findings should describe each step of the investigation in chronological order and include dates and times whenever possible. Although you can incorporate supporting evidence into the findings section, referencing and then appending evidence as exhibits at the end of the report is often a better choice, as it doesn’t interrupt the report flow. This includes witness statements, photographs, videos emails, documents and scanned files.

Conclusion

End the report with one or more narrative paragraphs in which you summarize the investigation and, if appropriate, recommend how to move forward. A summary should include a statement of the violations and provide enough information that the reader understands what substantiated the investigation without reading the entire report. Recommendations should be actionable steps that correspond to the severity of the allegation, the evidence presented, legal implications and your code of conduct or employee behavior policy.

About the Author

Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.

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