Write a Forensic Report Step by Step [Examples Inside]

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To present the evidence in a way the court deems admissible and bring the guilty to justice, formulating a coherent and comprehensive digital forensics report is crucial. Without one, retelling the events that occurred in a structured manner, all while backing up every claim with concrete evidence, would be next to impossible (hence they are a requirement in the court proceedings).

Digital forensics reports play an instrumental role in coordinating the work between multiple investigators, law enforcement officers, administrative, and legal personnel involved in the case, not all of which may share the same professional background and field of expertise.

They are the interdisciplinary focal point that tells the truth of what happened and documents the findings, all while presenting them in a factual yet understandable manner.

At the same time, investigators should keep in mind that other law enforcement institutions may ask for the report in order to:

  • Get a recap of events
  • Determine the next steps to take
  • Review the evidence
  • Verify what digital forensics tools have been used
  • Get an overview of the investigation’s objectives
  • etc.

Before we reveal the exact steps on how to formulate one, keep in mind that the exact structure of a digital forensic report depends on the case, which means what you will find below is a general overview of the entire process in a step-by-step manner as well as a general outline to follow which should give you some ideas on how to tackle the task at hand.

To give you a better idea how the final result should look, we’ve also provided some concrete digital forensic report examples from different cases.

With that out of the way, let’s begin with :

STEP 1: Familiarize Yourself with the Best Practices of Writing a Digital Forensic Report

Magnfying glass

Before you begin with the writing process, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the most important principles to keep in mind the entire time.

These can be summarized as follows:

Don’t break the law when collecting, processing, analyzing, or handling evidence

No law enforcement officer or digital forensics investigator is above the law, so everyone’s rights need to be respected during the entirety of the investigation. The forensic report you present needs to make this clear beyond any doubt, so you should state any warrants you’ve obtained to search and confiscate a device, etc.

Only mention the information that’s relevant

Just think of it like telling a story. If it fails to captivate the reader’s attention, there is a risk the reader will put it down before getting to the end.

The purpose of a digital forensics report is to help the reader connect the dots and lead them on a journey of discovery.

Focus on concrete facts rather than your personal opinions

When trying to get someone to answer for their deeds and convict them in court, you’re going to need more than just a subjective opinion, so focus on stating concrete evidence and facts.

Remember that anyone can argue with someone’s opinion, but facts are indisputable.

Utilize any forensics notes you’ve made during the investigation itself

Did your work begin with suspicion or a clue you started investigating? This can add value and enrich the section where you talk about the stages of the investigation and how you came to your conclusions.

If a particular part of the digital forensics process was especially challenging, shed some light on why that was the case and how you managed to overcome these challenges.

Avoid using complex terms and focus on conveying the relevant information in a manner that is coherent and simple to understand

The reason being is that not everyone who will read the report has the same professional background as you.

During the investigation and legal proceedings, expect to be working with IT professionals, legal professionals, and law enforcement personnel who all need to be kept on the same page. Of course, you shouldn’t strip out all of the industry terms such as IP addresses, timestamps, hash values, and similar, all of which can be crucial pieces of evidence.

However, when mentioning these, you should include a glossary at the end where others can read up on the exact definitions of the technical terms.

Automate the process if you can

If you stick to the end, we’ll show you how.

To give you a quick spoiler: there are certain dedicated digital forensics solutions such as SalvationDATA’s Digital Forensic Lab that take out the heavy lifting of having to write a digital forensics report on your own, with a built-in chain of custody compliance, timestamps, etc.

STEP 2: Study Some Generic and Recommended Forensic Report Examples before Writing

Forensic Report

Studying a computer forensic evidence report example written by others will not only get your creative juices flowing, let you in on some ideas about what to include in your report, but give you a good overall image of what the finalized version is supposed to look like.

Below, please find our digital forensic report template list consisting of top-performing industry examples.

STEP 3: Write the Digital Forensics Report


Now comes the most important step of all – actually writing the digital forensics report.

Since you’re now familiar with the best practices of how to approach the task, we can move on to the exact structural specifics of it.

a) Title

Please include the name of the case, the investigator in charge, and the relevant dates.

b) Table of contents

Just like a book, your digital forensic report should list out every section and map out the corresponding page of the chapter.

If you’re using a popular text editor like Microsoft Word, this section can be auto-generated.

c) Case summary

This section should provide a general overview of the case.

Do not include too many details and try to avoid technical jargon if possible.

d) Evidence

The summary of the evidence submitted comes first. After that, you should list one after another and include screenshots if needed, besides, make sure to provide an explanation for each.

In this section, it’s fine to list any relevant hardware specifics such as the model name, serial numbers, etc.

e) Objectives

In essence, the objectives section should attempt to answer the question of what you’re trying to prove.

That being said, what was the objective of the investigation?

Don’t forget to include your hypothesis and any relevant search terms.

f) Steps taken during an investigation (aka. Forensic Analysis).

This section should outline the steps taken during the investigation, including the digital forensics methodology used and any interactable parts of the process.

You should also consider including additional explanations that extrapolate the process and give valuable insights into how crucial conclusions were made.

For the sake of readability and maintaining the chain of custody, you should also provide a timeline of events that specifies who handled the evidence, for how long, and for what purpose.

g) Tools used

What digital forensic tools did you rely on during the digital forensics investigation? Outline them briefly and explain what purpose each of them served, including any limitations of said tools.

Attaching screenshots of the process and describing it can help make it sound clearer and more understandable to follow even for non-industry professionals involved in the case and/or legal procedure.

h) Relevant findings

Re-iterate the most important conclusions here and don’t be afraid to go into as many details as you see fit. Anything you state here should be directly related to the main objectives of the digital forensics investigation.

This is where you explain each piece of evidence and clearly pinpoint what it proves in a way that even non-industry professionals can understand.

i) Recommended next steps

This section should be short (no longer than a paragraph).

In it, suggest what the council can do with these findings and how to go from here.

Should criminal charges be filed?

j) Appendices (optional)

Not required, but it can make or break a case sometimes.

This is where you’ll be presenting your exhibit A, exhibit B, etc. You should present them in a PDF format that can be easily opened anywhere all while retaining its intended formatting.

Make sure that any hyperlinks it contains are clickable and that they link to relevant resources.

k) Formatting (optional)

This is mainly for the sake of the document having a professional appearance.

Having each page marked with a number also makes it easy to detect if someone tried to tamper with the report by removing a page (or if one of them accidentally goes missing).

Make sure the logo of your law enforcement organization is clearly visible in the header and footer of each page, as well as the corresponding address and the person in charge.

l) Figures (optional)

Your digital forensics report will likely contain various figures scattered throughout the document.

It’s nice to have a dedicated page where all of these can be reviewed in the same place.

Make sure there is a description alongside every figure stated.

m) Glossary (optional)

At some point when writing the report, there will be no other way than to mention some technical or industry-specific terms, although the best practice is to avoid them in general or at least keep them to a minimum.

Including a glossary at the end of the document will help non-industry professionals understand the complex terms mentioned in the report.

Make sure to include only those that you actually referenced during writing.

STEP 4: Re-check Your Report for Factual Correctness and Apply Edits as Needed


This is the part where you should re-check that everything is in order, and factually correct and that you haven’t forgotten to include anything (please refer to the sections above if you need further guidance).

As you refine the final version of the document, you should ask yourself:

  • Do the numbers check out?
  • Does the report list all crucial pieces of evidence and the people in charge?
  • Is it brief and to the point or do you feel like you could trim out some irrelevant parts?
  • Is it based on facts? If you catch yourself writing ‘I believe X’, perhaps it’s better to word it as ‘the evidence suggests that X happened because of Y’.
  • Could certain sections be explained using layman’s terms instead of using complicated jargon?

Once everything checks out and you feel no further improvements can be made, you’re good to proceed to the final step!

STEP 5: Present the Report to the Court


Once you’ve double-checked everything, you can confidently present the report to the court.

If you’d like more detailed guidance, we’ve written a comprehensive guide on what steps are required to present evidence in court.

For your quick glance, please find a brief summary below:

  1. Secure the evidence.
  2. Make sure to maintain the chain of custody.
  3. Verify that the evidence is authentic.
  4. Sort the evidence according to its relevance.
  5. Convert the files into the right format.
  6. Get acquainted with the presentation procedure.
  7. Label the exhibits.
  8. Complete the final preparations.

It is our hope that the steps outlined above will take the hassle out of the equation and give you a solid idea of what the court expects to see.

Make sure to also familiarize yourself with the dos and don’ts of presenting evidence in court so that it will deem it admissible.

Digital Forensic Lab Can Help You Automate Your Reporting

Most law enforcement professionals would agree that writing a digital forensics report is not the most productive part of the overall investigation. As necessary as it may be, it consumes a lot of man-hours that could be better spent analyzing evidence and taking a proactive role in the investigation.

To provide an alternative and do away with mindless manual labor, SalvationDATA has come up with a Digital Forensic Lab, a cutting-edge one-stop technological solution designed to streamline your digital forensics workflow and fully automate the reporting.

Thanks to its powerful architecture, evidence visualization, and built-in reporting, you will be able to close more cases in (even in advance )record time, thus adding to the credibility and recognition of your department, all while effortlessly maintaining the chain of custody and staying compliant with other industry requirements.

In the end, due to giving you such massive time and money savings, investments like these virtually pay for themselves.


Digital Forensic Lab completely automates the process of generating a forensic report.


At the end of the day, a digital forensics report is meant to facilitate communication between different industry experts that are involved in the case in one way or another. Some may have a background in IT, some are legal professionals, and some are officers of the law doing the fieldwork of collecting and securing crucial evidence.

With this in mind, the report doesn’t need to be perfect, nor does it need to include every single detail regarding the investigation. As long as you focus on the most important elements, use clear and concise language everyone can understand, as well as stick to the best practices we’ve outlined above, you should have a firm starting point on how to proceed.