Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Rhetoric, Theory and Culture (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

Department of Humanities

Advisor 1

Andrew Fiss

Committee Member 1

Stefka Hristova

Committee Member 2

Oren Abeles

Committee Member 3

Michelle Jarvie-Eggart


Police communication sits at the unique intersection of risk communication, scientific and technical communication, and medical communication, as we see in forensic reports. In this dissertation, I examine the communicative underpinnings of forensic pathology and forensic engineering reports. I argue that there is not only an inherent link between the unpredictability of a written text and the reception of said text by both its intended and unintended audience, but also a link to the broader socio-cultural contexts. I will examine an atypical forensic pathology report (autopsy report) of George Floyd, a more standard forensic pathology report of an inmate who died of lethal injection, John Grant, and a standard forensic engineering report of a fatal collision. Using Voyant Tools, the analysis will show the link between readability index and unpredictability of a text as well as demonstrate how the surrounding, rather charged socio-cultural contexts can have an impact on the text’s underlying structure. Unpredictability will be defined as and examined as a key facet because that is how textual analysis measures a readability index. Through my analysis, building on Claude Shannon and Warren Weaver’s understanding of randomness and unpredictability as entropy in a system, I found that the higher the unpredictability (entropy) in a written communication system, the lower the readability index. Unpredictability in a text can increase noise and contribute to the loss of information in a communicative system. This is especially important as the genre of the forensic report is deeply embedded in the moral economies of police science. It is also deeply impacted by the seeming necessity to remain objective in reports that are intrinsically human centered.