Areas covered
Handwriting can be used to identify the individual who wrote that document. Only DNA profiling and fingerprints are as effective in unequivocally identifying an individual, and while fingerprints prove that a document was handled by the person in question, they do not prove authorship.
Signatures are a highly specialised form of handwriting and are often the target of forgery. The assessment of a signature's authenticity is the most challenging, yet most frequently required task of the forensic document examiner.
Typewriting, printing, inks and paper can be scientifically analysed to give clues about a document's origins and history. This area extends to modern office equipment such as photocopiers, laser printers and word processors.

Erasures and alterations to documents can be detected and original entries revealed. Even when scrupulously removed, traces can be detected using specialised techniques.

Latent marks or impressions left on documents or made accidentally can be revealed in the laboratory to determine when, where and how a document was produced.

Dating of documents is one of the more difficult aspects of forensic science. Nevertheless, methods do exist to reveal when a document was produced, for instance, associated marks or impressions coupled with paper analysis and the assistance of manufacturers' production records. Information Sheet No 4 provides further information about this.

The Giles Document Laboratory