We have discussed this topic before but it is important enough to repeat and update.
Frequent questions are; "What do I take notes about?" and "How to take notes?". The best question is "Why do I take notes?" Let's start with last question first:
Why does a private investigator need to take notes? This question generally is referring to content more than the need to take notes, but here are a few reasons why you should: 1. Writing things down helps you remember them. The best way to learn is repetition. 2. Record of work performed. Let's face it, you really enjoy being a private investigator, but getting paid is important too. You can quickly and easily complete your work history for billable hours by referring to your notes. 3. When working on multiple investigations it is easy to confuse facts. Referring back to your notes will increase your accuracy and you will not forget important details. One investigator said, "My notes have led to the capture of many a suspect as I have found the clues I needed in them."
How to take notes? This question centers on two aspects of taking notes. First, what is the best method for taking notes? A tablet or pen and paper. We opt for the pen and paper method. It's easier, allows you draw sketches, scratch through information, and go back to earlier details you have noted. Second, what is an efficient way to take notes? Learning shorthand can be time consuming and costly. We suggest using shortcuts common to texting. For example; "V could c S put items dwn front of pants." You can probably figure this one out, "Victim could see the suspect put the stolen items down the front of his pants." Using common abbreviations such as "V" for victim, "S" for suspect, and "W" for witness will help you quickly take notes. If there are more than one, then assign a number for each. Later you can transcribe your notes for the report in to complete sentences.
What do I take notes about? This question centers on the idea that people tend to talk quickly and a lot of the information they provide is not relevant to the investigation. Trying to write down everything that is said is almost impossible and can be distracting to the individual you are interviewing. The key items to capture are: names, phone numbers, addresses, locations, descriptions of people & property, times/dates, and facts that support or disprove the allegations. Following is an example that you can use as a template for taking notes consistently:
"Monday, September 2, 2016 - 1600-1630hrs @ Jones Office Bldg Suite 123.
V - Brenda Jones, 231 345 5454, office manager
V could c S put items dwn front of pants in waiting room. S left by front door, in late model Honda 4 door. S drove north on Williams St.
S - w/m, slender, about 5'10"-5'11", blue jeans, white t-shirt and tennis shoes.
Items: small clock radio and V's purse. Purse brn leather, "Coach", contained $20 and several cc's."
You can see in the example that "PI shorthand" was used. You can easily transpose the information into complete sentences later when completing the report. Here are few tips:
1. Don't let note taking interfere with the interview.
2. Always review your notes with the person being interviewed to make sure your information is accurate. It will also prompt them to add additional details.
3. Leave spaces as you take notes so you can go back add important details as needed.
4. Transcribe your notes as soon as possible while they are fresh in your memory.
5. Always take notes. Develop a habit of taking notes even if you think you don't need to.
6. Keep all of your notes together in a notebook. This will allow you keep a journal of your work.
Always take good notes to improve your investigation!
Pro PI staff
Experienced professionals and trainers.