Effective Testimony and Report Writing

Effective Testimony and Report Writing


Perhaps the most intimidating aspect of forensic work for a forensic psychology professional is communicating his or her results, especially when faced with testifying in court. For many, testifying is an anxiety-producing situation. Part of the anxiety may stem from the knowledge that forensic assessment results may influence the outcome of a court ruling and therefore affect someone’s life positively or negatively. It is the responsibility of the judge and/or jury to make final decisions, however, and not that of the forensic psychology professional.

Whether the communication of findings occurs in person or in writing, the ability to present complicated psychological material in language that the average person on the street may comprehend is a valuable skill for forensic psychology professionals to develop and continually refine.

To prepare for this Discussion:

• Review Chapter 20 in the course text, Learning Forensic Assessment, paying close attention to the principles that guide report writing and the guidelines for structuring a report. Also reflect on the differences between forensic and clinical reports.

• Review the articles, “Forensic Report Writing,” “Introduction to the Special Series on Psychological Reports,” “The Psychological Report: A Review of Current Controversies,” “Variables Affecting the Clarity of Psychological Reports,” and “Ethical Considerations in Writing Psychological Assessment Reports.” Think about the intricacies of psychological report writing in general and forensic writing specifically, including who is affected and how. Also think about any special ethical considerations that may influence writing forensic assessment reports.

• Review Chapter 21 in the course text, Learning Forensic Assessment, focusing on the principles of effective testimony and considering how these may best be put into practice.

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• Review the article, “Believability of Expert and Lay Witnesses: Implications for Trial Consultation,” focusing on the issues related to expert-witness believability and the implications they have for forensic assessment.

• Select the three guidelines and/or principles related to either effective testimony and/or report writing that you believe are most important to forensic assessment. Reflect on why they are important and how you might apply them in practic