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Forensic Handwriting Examination and Human Factors: Improving the Practice Through a Systems Approach (NISTIR 8282r1) (May 2021) (full-text).


For some 6,000 years, humans have made an indelible mark on history through the loops, strokes, and other characters that constitute handwriting. The study of handwriting is also an important part of forensic science. By analyzing the characteristics of a handwritten note or signature, a trained forensic document examiner may be able to extract valuable information for determining whether a note or signature is genuine, as well as the likely writer. As with all human endeavors, handwriting examination is not immune to errors.

In June 2015, the National Institute of Standards and Technology convened the Expert Working Group for Human Factors in Handwriting Examination to conduct a scientific assessment of the effects of human factors on forensic handwriting examination with the goal of recommending strategies and approaches to improve its practice and reduce the likelihood of errors. This report provides a comprehensive discussion of how human factors relate to all aspects of handwriting examinations including communicating conclusions to all relevant parties through reports and testimony. The report also discusses education, training, and certification as well as the role of quality assurance, quality control, and management in reducing errors.