The following are notes concerning the question associated with this module. The actual question is in bold type.


At approximately 2:00 a.m. on July 5 I heard a scream from Jan’s room.  When I went to see what happened, she was in pain.  A client who was awake said she saw Laura, a staff member, twist Jan’s arm.

In this case, the incident report indicated that the emergency room doctor had discovered that Jan had a spiral fracture when she examined her at 4:00 a.m. that same morning.

Based on this information, what do you believe is an appropriate way to write the “ultimate” question the investigator must answer? 

It is critical to establish at the beginning of this module that the eventual credibility of all evidence starts with a correct understanding of the investigatory question: i.e., the question that represents the reason the investigation will be conducted. Consider the following question:

Who was in the room?

It certainly is a question that might be asked of a witness, and one that an investigator might ask him or herself when summarizing and analyzing evidence. However, it is not the reason the investigation is occurring.

The case associated with this module raises another problem with respect to the investigatory question: i.e., it must be related to the finding of facts, not characterization of those facts. For example, often students will write the investigatory question as follows:

Did Laura abuse Jan on July 5, at 2:00 a.m. in Jan’s room?

This question suggests that the investigator must not only be an expert in the investigative process, but also an expert in the laws, rules and regulations governing the care of consumers. Most incident management processes expect an investigator to focus on the collection of facts. Once collected and communicated properly, anyone else properly skilled can interpret those facts. In other words, this form of the investigatory question asks the investigator to play two different roles in this process. We believe it is important that the investigator focus on the investigatory role, i.e., the systematic collection of facts for the purpose of describing and explaining what occurred.

Given that role, there are two possible answers to this exercise.

Question 1

How did Jan receive the spiral fracture to her arm that was diagnosed at 4:00 on July 5, and allegedly occurred at approximately 2:00 a.m. on July 5 in Jan’s  room?

Question 2

Did Laura twist Jan’s arm at approximately 2:00 a.m. on July 5 in Jan’s room? If so, did that behavior cause a spiral fracture?

The second question draws precisely from the accusation reflected in the report; however, the danger of using this as the investigatory question – at least from the outset – is that it focuses attention on Laura’s behavior, and as a consequence may divert attention from other possible causes of the injury. And, of course, it is altogether possible that Laura twisted an already fractured arm, or that she twisted the arm which was fractured in a different manner between 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m.

The first question is a better version, since it is not prejudicial toward Laura. If Laura twisted the arm – whether causing or not causing the injury – it is likely to be divulged as the investigator answers this question. But, of course, the answer could be that the reporter twisted the arm, or that the injury occurred hours earlier when Jan caught her arm between two pieces of furniture and struggled to get free. Any of these is possible given this question.

At the same time, it is possible that the answer to the question is as follows:

Laura twisted Jan’s arm at approximately 8:00 p.m. while trying to remove it from a space between the couch and end table in the living room. It was that twisting motion that, according to the Doctor, likely caused the injury.

Does this mean that Laura did not twist Jan’s arm at 2:00 a.m.? No. It is still possible that although she twisted the arm at 8:00 p.m. for the reason noted above and causing the injury, she may have also twisted the arm at 2:00 a.m. for the reason alleged by the consumer.

Therefore, the investigator is advised to begin by focusing on Question 1. If the answer to question 1 does not preclude the possibility that Question 2 could be true, then the investigator would continue the investigation, focusing at that point on Question 2.