Every professional investigator should be aware of the “5W/H questions” (who, what, when, where, why, and how). The “5W/H questions” provide a logical and methodical framework for an investigator to follow during an active investigation. This is extremely important considering that the questions asked during an investigation are usually what determines success or failure. Objectivity in truth seeking is the goal in any investigation and, “the investigators strongest suit is an open-minded, hypothesis-driven, scientific approach to the case” (Nemeth 17). Asking who, what, when, where, how, and why in any given fact situation can further guide questions of inquiry that could ultimately lead to the truth and help to achieve that “scientific approach” while reconstructing the incident[s] in question. By having a logical list of prepared questions, an investigator can gather all of the important facts and develop new sets of questions. Preparation is key when conducting any interview and field investigators should be capable of, “distinguish[ing], compar[ing], and contrast[ing] the reliable from the conjectural, and just as importantly, be willing to change, modify and therefore adjust one’s basic theory to the facts as the case evolves” (Nemeth 20). If an investigator does not utilize the 5W/H method or some variation thereof, it will become extraordinarily difficult to sort through the facts in an objective manner during an investigation and will most likely lead to error or time wasted. Anytime a new case is accepted by a private investigations agency, one of the first things that should be done is the preparation of an intelligence file. An intelligence file is a compilation of data and information that is used during an open investigation to solve a case. A major part of any intelligence file is the initial client interview and lead sheet. A lead sheet is a document that collects valuable information from the client which attempts to answer the 5W/H’s. Conducting a thorough interview with the client and obtaining a detailed lead sheet ensures that the field investigators working the case have all the information they need to be successful and to begin the investigation.
Nemeth, Charles P. “Private Security and the Investigative Process”. 3rd Edition. CRC Press. New York. 2010. Print.