Light and Electron Microscope Approaches to Sequence of Writing Problems


  • Joseph G. Barabe Director of Scientific Imaging, McCrone Associates
  • Wayne D. Niemeyer Senior Research Scientist, McCrone Associates
  • Vickie Willard Forensic Document Examiner, D-BFDE



Document examination, light and scanning electron (SEM) microscopy, sequence analysis, illuminating methods, ink and toner sequence, line crossings


Sequence of writing problems constitute only a small percentage of most document examiners’ case loads, but solving such problems can be crucial. It is important to know the factors that make sequences capable of determination, and when possible, to know how to make such a determination or where to find further assistance. McCrone Associates, a microscopical and microanalytical consulting firm with a wide range of instrumentation and analytical techniques, is occasionally asked to supplement work performed by individual examiners in smaller laboratories. For this reason, McCrone sponsored research to ascertain which instruments, illumination methods, magnifications and techniques might provide more definitive answers to a variety of sequence of writing questions. We derived a number of insights from this research which we would like to present as a general microscopical theory of sequence determinability. It is hoped that this theory will provide the document examiner with one more practical tool with which to approach sequence of writing problems. We also invite our colleagues to test this theory and report both confirmations and discrepancies.

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How to Cite

Barabe, J. G., Niemeyer, W. D., & Willard, V. (2018). Light and Electron Microscope Approaches to Sequence of Writing Problems. Journal of Forensic Document Examination, 28, 77–103.