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The Psychiatric Report, Principles and Practice of Forensic Writing
Editors: Alec Buchanan and Michael A. Norko
Pages:  280   Soft Cover
ISBN 13:
Cambridge University Press  2011
List Price:  $55.00

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 MedicalScienceBooks.com Medical Book Review:

    The Psychiatric Report, Principles and Practice of Forensic Writing is a helpful guide for those learning how to write quality forensic reports and narratives.  Due to the important role played by psychiatrists in the legal process, the need for a concise resource which outlines the main points necessary for constructing thorough and effective documents for court use is obvious.  Little formal education is offered in this area to trainees although they will likely find themselves engaged in such writing for a substantial portion of their careers.

     A collection of chapters at the beginning of the book contain a wealth of information related to practical aspects of report writing including technical aspects of keeping audience and purpose in mind as well as considering the ethical consequences of the final product.  The next section includes detailed components required for specific types of reports such as those used in child custody cases.  Finally, there are several chapters discussing common themes such as psychological test results and violence assessments which need to be communicated clearly and accurately.

  Although much of the information can be used by a wide international audience, portions of the report specific information relates to the legal systems of the U.S. and U.K.  Therefore, some readers will require more additional resources than others when using this guide, but this is not a flaw in the book since its objective is mainly to develop confidence in writing reports and not a legal guide per se.  Regardless of where one resides, the topic of malingering and how it needs to be assessed and documented will be confronted on a regular basis.  This text provides excellent guidance when dealing with the malingering patient, and this chapter should be required reading for any psychiatrist in training or entering the realm of court documents for the first time.

     The Psychiatric Report, Principles and Practice of Forensic Writing is recommended reading for all those involved in the assessment of individuals for legal purposes.  Psychiatrists in training are at the top of the list of those that will benefit most from the book.  However, due to the jargon free language and general clarity of style, court officers such as judges, lawyers and advocates can also gain insight into how psychological concerns are addressed before proceedings begin.

Ratings (1-10 , 10 being the highest):

Overall Rating:


Author’s objectives met:



Organization of information: 8
Significant number of illustrations: 2
Suitable for intended audience: 10
Overall presentation: 8
Quality of illustrations: na
Usefulness of book:   8
Value: 9
Writing style: 9

Description (From Publisher):

The written report is central to the practice of psychiatry in legal settings. It is required of mental health professionals acting as expert witnesses in criminal cases, civil litigation situations, child custody proceedings and risk assessments. This book provides a theoretical background to psychiatric writing for the law and a practical guide to the preparation of the report. The first section addresses practical and ethical concerns, including the conduct of the forensic psychiatric evaluation, conflicts of interest, record keeping and confidentiality. The second section contains practical and detailed advice on preparing various types of report, including reports for use in criminal and civil litigation, civil commitment hearings and child custody proceedings. A final section covers special issues arising during report preparation including the use of psychological tests and the detection of malingering. This is an essential guide for anyone required to write a psychiatric report.


• Provides a comprehensive practical guide to this essential professional skill
• Integrates the theoretical background with the application of that theory to help promote understanding
• Illustrates how the core skills can be adapted to meet specific, everyday needs and situations

Table of Contents:

Foreword Paul S. Appelbaum
Introduction Michael A. Norko and Alec Buchanan
Part I. Principles of Writing: 1. History and function of the psychiatric report Kenneth J. Weiss, Robert M. Wettstein, Robert L. Sadoff, J. Arturo Silva and Michael A. Norko
2. Preparation Cheryl Wills
3. Confidentiality and record keeping Howard Zonana
4. Ethics Richard Martinez and Philip J. Candilis
5. Writing a narrative Ezra E. H. Griffith, Aleksandra Stankovic and Madelon V. Baranoski
6. Draftsmanship Phillip J. Resnick and Sherif Soliman
Part II. Structure and Content: 7. Report structure Alec Buchanan and Michael A. Norko
8. Criminal litigation J. Richard Ciccone and Josh Jones
9. Civil litigation Patricia Ryan Recupero and Marilyn Price
10. Civil and sex-offender commitment Debra A. Pinals, Graham D. Glancy and Li-Wen Grace Lee
11. Competency to practice and licensing Jeffrey S. Janofsky
12. Child custody Peter Ash
13. Employment: disability and fitness Robert P. Granacher, Jr.
Part III. Special Issues: 14. Writing for US federal courts Sally Johnson
15. Incorporating psychological testing Madelon V. Baranoski
16. Reasonable medical certainty Gregory B. Leong, J. Arturo Silva and Robert Weinstock
17. Violence risk assessment Alec Buchanan and Michael A. Norko
18. Malingering Charles Scott and Barbara McDermott
19. Psychiatry and ethics in UK criminal sentencing John O'Grady
20. Conclusion Alec Buchanan and Michael A. Norko


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