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Overview of Questioned Documents

Date Published
October 1, 2012

Investigators often need to examine or verify the authenticity of a document that could be used as evidence in court or aid in an investigation. Such documents are known as "questioned documents."

Through visual examination or advanced chemical analysis of inks and paper, forensic investigators can determine information relating to a questioned document's authentication, authorship or creation date. Such documents, printed or handwritten, could include checks, criminal confessions, counterfeit money, journal entries, threatening letters or wills.

During the analysis of these documents, investigators must be careful not to destroy the evidence. NIJ is committed to developing better methods to examine documents, while maintaining the integrity and preservation of evidence. Furthermore, NIJ understands the importance of new tools that aid in the examination of questioned documents such as computer models that assist the questioned document examiner in handwriting analysis.

NIJ's specific research priorities are to develop:

  • More efficient, highly sensitive techniques to analyze documents while preserving them.
  • Computer-based methods to analyze handwriting and verify signatures.
  • Approaches that expand the scientific basis of questioned document examinations.

NIJ-Funded Research

The table below shows NIJ-funded research projects. Select an award title to see details of the award, including any resulting publications.  


National Institute of Justice, "Overview of Questioned Documents," October 1, 2012, nij.ojp.gov:
Date Created: October 1, 2012