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Describing Communication During a Forensic Investigation Using the Pebbles on a Scale Metaphor

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International: Synergy Volume: Online Dated: December 2021
Date Published
December 2021

Since during the investigation of a crime, evidence is collected, analyzed, interpreted, and discussed by various stakeholders, this article examines the communication that may occur between two of these stakeholders: detectives and forensic analysts, and how their interaction influences the interpretation of evidence as the investigation proceeds and the theory of the case evolves.



Such communication can be understood as sets of actions that are inter-dependent: for example, a request for a specific analysis by a detective leads to analyses and conclusions that the analyst shares with the detective, which leads to an assessment of these conclusions relative to the theory of the case, which leads to further analysis requests, and so forth. We present the Pebbles on a Scale metaphor, which describes how communication and the understanding of evidence takes place between the detective and analysts, and the different ways in which they consider the information as a function of their roles in the investigation. Using a hypothetical case for illustration, we discuss communicative challenges, the evolving theory of the case, the language that is used by analysts to discuss “yes”, “no” and “I don’t know” conclusions, and how those conclusions are used by detectives during the progression of the investigation. (Publisher Abstract)

Date Published: December 1, 2021