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Interviewing the witness


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#1 Oiche

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 04:31 PM

Two of my people-myself included-are from a clinical background so try to rule out an effect of psychotropics or mental illness when talking to witnesses about what they saw or heard but really can't find a way to diplomatically ask about family history of schitzophrenia or bipolar disorder without the person taking offense
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#2 Joven76

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 05:13 PM

When we interview our clients, we just simply ask if there is any family history of mental illness. So far we've never had anyone take offense to that question...

Short, sweet, and to the point... :clap:
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#3 Silvertongue

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Posted 14 September 2009 - 10:21 PM

I'm sure you could begin the interview with, 'None of the questions we ask are meant to offend anyone. We simply feel the need to be thorough and rule out all possibilities.' That way you're not focused on the mental illness as being the sole aspect that might offend.
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#4 Oiche

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 12:02 AM

Thank you both lol I'm in So Cal and for whatever reason our witnesses-with the exception of one woman-felt that they were being singled out on the family history questions and that was with the standard disclaimer
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#5 Caniswalensis

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 09:56 AM

Good advice here. Also, working from a standardized form with a checklist of questions might help.

When the person sees that you are asking the question from a list of questions that are asked of everyone, it removes the possibility that you are asking because you personally think they are crazy or on drugs or whatever.

It would have the side benifit of helping to standardize your investigation procedures.

I Hope this is helpful.

Regards, Canis

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#6 Oiche

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Posted 15 September 2009 - 02:12 PM

Thanks, Canis and for all who responded
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#7 Silvertongue

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 08:49 AM

Also an excellent point, Canis. I think the pre-printed form also lends an air of professionalism. It's always important to conduct yourself and your investigation in a professional manner, i.e. adhering to a pre-established set of guidelines which are a mixture of your own beliefs as a group and what you've learned from others. Whether you're just starting out or have been conducting investigations for many years, professionalism is something people remember.

Also, if you make this form as Canis suggested, I would recommend having it printed out on your group's letter head (create one if you don't have one already) and leave some room at the end for notes.

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#8 Oiche

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 07:15 PM

Also an excellent point, Silver, thanks
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#9 CaveRat2

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 08:00 PM

While I don't attack someone in regards to mental issues, I do expect that the questions will be answered since it is a valid concern regarding an investigation. A client also should expect a thorough investigation to cover all bases. I ask that question in the same series of questions I use when I address other personal matters such as medications, drugs and alcohol, lifestyle issues,etc. If I get a positive response then I go into more detail, if a basic question regarding any mental counselling or treatment is negative I go on to the next area without comment. Otherwise questions will cover details based on answers received. I sometimes get some hesitation from clients, but after eplaining why such questions are asked have never had any real problems. Most people cooperate since they too want answers.

#10 descendentoffrey

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Posted 16 September 2009 - 09:06 PM

I agree with having a written list, it looks more professional. I believe most people would understand the line of reasoning behind those questions.
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#11 midnight_ravynhawk

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 10:05 AM

Just a quick question...can anyone provide me with a standardized client question list or tell me where to get one??? I would just like to sound as professional as possible, not offend anyone and do our collective paranormal investigating justice. I take this very seriously and want to become the best investigator I can possibly be. :)
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#12 CaveRat2

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 10:41 AM

The problem with any "standardized" list of questions is it is not flexible. Most investigations have certain characteristics unique to them. Thus questions have to be adaptable to the circumstances at hand. I generally ask very general questions which reuire the witness describe details from their point of view. Sort of like the old "essay questions" used on exams as opposed to multiple choice which limits responses.

#13 Caniswalensis

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 11:52 AM

The problem with any "standardized" list of questions is it is not flexible. Most investigations have certain characteristics unique to them. Thus questions have to be adaptable to the circumstances at hand. I generally ask very general questions which reuire the witness describe details from their point of view. Sort of like the old "essay questions" used on exams as opposed to multiple choice which limits responses.


Good point, I run into the same situation in my work. You can not write a procedure or document that covers every situation.

However, some questions should be asked every time. Some things need to be done by a standardized procedure the same way every time.

Questions like Date, time, location, number of people involved, number & description of incident(s) and yes, the mental illness question, are all basic examples of things that should be asked every time. Having a standardized list of these types of questions allows you to cover everything without having to worry if you are remembering all that stuff. That fallows you to concentrate on other tasks, or even deligate the interview to someone less experienced.

I like the idea of your essay questions, though. It can be very helpful to record the impressions of people involved in whatever you happen to be investigating. It can also lead you astray if they are focused on the wrong thing, though. I guess knowing the difference is the hard part. That comes with experience, I suppose.

There's nothing says you can't have some essay style questions at the end of the standard list. That way you get the best of both worlds.

Regards, Canis

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#14 CaveRat2

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 04:43 PM

To go a little into details regarding my questioning process, I agree with the basic questions. No matter what the event we will need to know witness name, location, date, time of sighting, the environmental conditions, etc. I try to obtain that in the initial contact even before the inview takes place.

Most of my cases deal with UFOs, etc., but the concept of how i do them could easily be adapted to any type of case. I mentioned "essay" questions. I can best descibe my methods by using a hypothetical example.

Joe calls me and reports he has seen something strange. This is the initial contact phase where I obtain the basic background on Joe. I send him a quetionaire which requires he provide that information. In addition the final portion is a narrative. This is where Joe is asked to descibe in his own words what he experienced. Heis to provide as much detail as he can, even his thoughts and impressions at the time. I am usually not present at this time, so Joe is free to take as much time as he wants and also I am not there to influence in any way what he wants to say. This is his story in his own words with no questions that could influence what he saw.

After he returns this narrative I go over it and determine, based on what Joe wrote down, any areas where I may want to draw out details. I will put together a series of questions at this point. The next step is the witness interview. Since I already have Joe's narrative I have his initial, unbiased comments. This is where questions can become a problem. You may ask questions for details, but that same method of interrogation also may lead the witness to certain conclusions. this bias is not desiarable since testimony under those conditions may lose some accuracy. Thus the reason the interview takes place AFTER the narrative is completed. the narrative provides a base for questioning, not just random questions asked of a witness.

In my investigations there may actually be several interview sessions based on the nature of the case and how well the first ties in with the narrative. It becomes an ongoing process right along with the actual investigation itself.

#15 PJay

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Posted 22 September 2009 - 10:18 PM

I have standardized questions, and as far as the health questions, I first ask if anyone is on any kind of medication. If so, explain. Has anyone in the past, or now, recieved treatment for any mental health issues, if so, explain. That way, it's as impersonal sounding as I can get it, and (hopefully) just sounds like I need to cover all background info.




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