All the Posts on Report-Writing
A warm welcome to new readers of this blog!
Maybe you got here from one of the recent Testing Psychologist podcasts on report-writing, readability, or using TextExpander (or neuropsychology or complex differential diagnosis), and you're looking for my posts about report-writing.
Maybe you've been here before and want one "master post" that links to all the posts on report-writing, to bookmark for yourself or send to a colleague. If so, this post is for you!
There's nothing new in this post - it's just a collection of links that I'll try to keep updated, so that all the "report-writing" content can be found in one place.
Let me start with a teeny bit of my report-writing journey. In July 2017, frustrated by the amount of time and effort it took me to write reports that were not as helpful as I wanted, I took 2 weeks off work and poured over the available literature and books on report-writing.
At the time, the Stakeholders' article had not yet been published, Dean Beebe had not yet presented on report-writing at AACN, and the second Essentials book had not been published... so there wasn't much to guide me, except for a few books focused on 'traditional' reports (like this book). For this reason, I also explored what other fields were saying about report-writing, looking to medicine, government, sales, and media relations.
I also consulted with many folks who regularly read assessment reports, like pediatricians, psychiatrists, parents, teachers, tutors, and colleagues in allied disciplines. I asked them what they actually thought of our reports, and found out what they really wanted in a report.
After gathering all that info and experimenting with countless options, I developed an inverted-pyramid report that works for me. I shared it with a handful of colleagues, used it in my practice, got lots of feedback, and refined it. A year later, I "went public" and started sharing my model with other professionals, including the PED-NPSY listserv in August 2018. I started this blog, which includes lots of posts about report writing, a few months later.
Okay, now on to the posts.
My Report Model
My model starts with a brief intro and bullet point list of diagnoses, then jumps right in to the summary and recs. The rest of the report is the history, test list, and behavior observation in modified table format (you can see a picture of this further down), followed by tables with brief interpretations inserted right into the tables (also pictured below).
Here are some posts on the basics:
Sample Reports - This post basically says, "hey, if you're a student, psychologist, or related professional and want de-identified samples of my model, shoot me an email" (you can do that through the "Contact Me" page)
Pretty Tables - My first 27 versions of this report-writing model were not always visually pretty, especially the table section. This post shows off my new, prettier tables (also seen in the picture below)
Developing Your Own Report Model
I love having this model, but the thing I'm most passionate about is helping psychologists find their own approach that works for their readers. If you like my model, cool. Please use it, personalize it, improve on it, and share with others! (It's really nice if you cite me if you share it, but otherwise, you're welcome to borrow or steal whatever you like for your own clinical use.) Keep in mind that my model is just what works for me. You have a different voice, different readers, and different info you want to communicate.
So find what works for you. Here are some posts that might help with that:
Start As Close to the End as Possible - Why we write 'traditional' reports the way we do, and why we should try something else
Get to the Good Stuff Faster - Some options, other than my model, for making your reports more responsive to your readers
Making Your Reports More Readable
One thing I hear over and over again from those I interview is that our audience finds our reports basically unreadable. The reading level is too high and our reports are too long. The reports take us too long to write, are full of jargon, and are repetitive. In other words, they're hard to write but even harder to read. Ouch.
So here's a bunch of posts about improving readability:
Improving Readability with Churchill, Hemingway, and Zombies - Lots of practical tips on making your reports more readable. Plus zombies.
Readability Examples - Links to examples of the same summary, written at the 5th, 8th, and 13th grade levels, so you can see what the same ideas look like at different reading levels. I'm also going to put those here: Original summary (Grade level= 13); Revised summary (Grade level = 8); Simplified summary (Grade level = 5).
Report Readability - More info about report readability, how to measure your readability, and why readability is important.
On Not Sharing Everything - You don't have to share everything you've learned during an evaluation in the feedback or report.
The Poster - What started it all! The poster I and colleagues Alison Wilkinson-Smith and Alice Ann Spurgin presented at AACN in 2011 on the readability of pediatric neuropsychological reports. Wow, that's almost 10 years ago now! Apparently I've been enthusiastic about this issue for... quite a while.
Using Technology to Streamline Your Writing
Writing better, faster, more readable reports is a mixture of streamlining your process, finding your voice (and 'cutting away' anything that isn't your voice), and using technology to make it easier.
In these posts, I share tech tools that work for me:
TextExpander - An amazing technology option for writing templated text, with lots of examples and videos. Best $44 you'll ever spend.
The Form Tool - Another cool (and free!) piece of technology that can help you write a background in under 15 minutes (sample history created in about 8 minutes below)
Why This is Important, Why It's Hard, and the "Inner Work"
I'm not going to lie, changing our reports is hard work. There are a lot of issues that come up about our worth, our value, our training, and our imposter syndrome.
Here are some posts on some of these topics:
Acknowledging the Barriers - If we know that our reports don't really work for our audience, why do we keep writing the same kind of report?
Getting our ACT together (part 1) and Part 2 - Writing something different than the "traditional" report means taking risks and inviting feedback that isn't always kind. These posts are about using Acceptance and Commitment techniques to get to that place that lets us put something 'different' and better out there into the world.
Finding Your Unique Writing Style
When we shorten our reports, we have to figure out what cut away. The best thing to cut is anything that doesn't offer your unique value to your readers. Which means, you have to know your amazing and personal value is.
These posts are about finding your unique voice:
Finding Your Voice - Part 1 in a planned 2-part series on finding your unique report-writing style (featuring some possible 'report writing styles', as pictured below) and cutting away anything that isn't your style.
Empathy in Reports - I have so much more to say on this topic, but this is what I've got so far.
Reports are easier to write when you feel great about the info you gathered during the intake, your deep case conceptualization, and your incredible feedback. When you know exactly what you want to say, and how the family is going to hear it, the words just flow.
So here are some posts related to those topics:
Secret Questions Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 - What to listen for with your "inner ear" during the intake that will guide your assessment process, feedback, and report
The Process, An Introduction - Introducing my 10-step process for assessments that lead to easy-to-write reports. I'm going to put separate posts for each step below, as I write them.
So far I've written Step 1 of The Process, which is Redefining your Referral Questions (this post includes the "four frames" model pictured below). Better referral questions lead directly to more readable, more useful, easier-to-write reports.
Organizing a Summary - A very early post giving some options for how to 'draw a rectangle' organizing the evaluation findings. Having a template for how you'll organize the info makes writing the summary so much easier.
New post on my feedback model coming soon!
Call to Action If you've made it to the end, thanks so much for being here and thinking through report-writing with me. Can I ask you a favor now? Please comment below (or shoot me an email) letting me know what topics you want to see in future posts. What are your burning questions about report writing? What do you most want to talk about? What are you experimenting with?