Questions, answers and interrogatories
and how to handle them in MasterFile
and how to handle them in MasterFile
Questions and answers are fundamental to any litigation, investigation or research project to fill gaps in knowledge and better understand a situation. Many tools have been developed to help litigators and researchers manage questions and answers including outliners, to-do lists, “question spreadsheets”, and so forth. But merely obtaining answers is insufficient: key evidence that has been identified but then lost or buried in the database, forgotten or otherwise not used, for any reason, has no value — a point that’s often overlooked.
In this post we look at how MasterFile lets you stay on top of questions, set out interrogations, helps you record the answers and more importantly, quickly use that information in your argument.
Types of questions and their use
Jotting down and reviewing questions
Setting out interrogations
Using answers and ensuring key evidence is not lost
How to record answers so their information can be used efficiently
Generally we assume questions arise during depositions, witness interrogation or trial. Quite often though, they raise points to be thought about or raise matters to be researched and are not necessarily direct to anyone in particular besides yourself. They fall in three types:
When questions arise they are always about a document, a document’s extract, or some fact of the case. Therefore, MasterFile lets you quickly jot down questions in the “Questions raised” field of the “Things to do” section of document, extract and fact profiles shown below as they come to mind and not forgotten.
Questions for interrogations which may require reference to evidence, notes and other points to be raised during questioning will be drafted from the above. All profiles with questions appear in the “Outstanding questions” views available on the menu panel as shown at right. These views let you review facts, extracts and documents with questions, or view all questions in all profiles by player or by issue/topic.
MasterFile does not record questions in separate records by player name and then link these to the profiles. Rather, questions are prefixed with the player’s name or initials to indicate to whom a question is directed. This allows questions to be quickly and efficiently jotted down without cumbersome database operations. In addition, questions are not scattered across “question records” and all outstanding questions for a given document, extract and fact in the profile can be seen at a glance, shown above, and in the “Outstanding questions” views such as “all questions: by Issue/topic” below.
To find all questions assigned to a particular player, simply search any “Outstanding questions” view for the player’s name/initials in the “Questions raised” field. Alternatively, as the example above shows for “Rob Lee”, a “Questions” reminder task can also be assigned to a player. All profiles assigned “Questions” reminder tasks, as above, appear in the “all questions: by Player” view grouped by the players’ name, as shown below.
In general, questions during pre-trial or in-trial interrogations/examinations differ from other types because these questions:
Consequently, drafting such interrogation threads requires forethought similar to setting out argument making a spreadsheet cell a poor medium to attempt this task.
An interrogation is a document and therefore, like all other documents, it can and should be simply stored in MasterFile’s document repository and profiled, as shown below, by author, date, a simple description and an appropriate document type, such as the “Miscellaneous\Questions” document type pre-defined in MasterFile.
However, instead of drafting your interrogation document in Word, draft and format it in MasterFile. You’re then able to easily doc-link relevant evidence directly to your questions as you can see in the screenshot below where the questions are formatted for clarity and foundation facts or evidence are linked and explained as needed.
Questions arising during document and fact review are quickly listed using the profile’s questions field as shown above. The “Outstanding questions” views serve as a reminder of that list while drafting your interrogation; delete any questions you use from the questions field so views only display what’s remaining for you to focus on.
You could also make a “note” in the interrogation document’s questions field itself, as shown below, so that document also appears in the “Outstanding questions” views.
Simply recording an answer in a database record, a “question spreadsheet” or wherever the question was written, is generally unsatisfactory because although it may let you find the answer in the short run while the question is fresh in your mind, in the long run your information will be scattered willy-nilly across the database, or sit idle in the “question spreadsheet”. Making sure the information in answers you’ve collected is actually used in argument is what counts.
Therefore, there are two aspects to note: the answers must be firstly flagged so they do not get lost or buried in the database and secondly, the information must be used — in other words, even if answers are initially recorded with the questions, ultimately the information must transferred to the facts and argument to which they relate to add to the understanding or clarification of the relevant issue about which the question was asked in the first place. In MasterFile, this means using new information gleaned from answers to set out:
If you know in which facts and argument the information is to be slotted, enter it directly as you review the answers. Alternatively, like Post-it notes, you can flag key evidence in MasterFile from those answers as “Evidence to add to facts”. This is set in the “Things to do” section of document and extract profiles as shown below:
This new information then appears as a reminder on the “Evidence to add to facts” views and is not lost or forgotten, as shown below:
Note that whenever you locate key evidence either during document reviews or while prosecuting the case you should add it directly to the relevant facts or flag it as above for later use. If the document is large, you can create an extract of the key evidence and flag just the extract to avoid re-reading the document to find that key piece of information.
Answers to questions are either received electronically in a document or verbally. A document is easily handled like any other in MasterFile; we’ll concentrate on verbal responses here, as there are several options and approaches.
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