Investigative Journalism Syllabi

Below are links and descriptions to syllabi from investigative journalism courses (In alphabetical order of university, then professor’s name).


  • Arizona State: Prof. Jaqueline Petchel, Depth Reporting

Teaches students how to conceptualize, report and write long-form, in-depth stories. Students deeply research a selected topic through public records, interviews and investigative reporting techniques and write an in-depth article with the goal of publication.

Arizona State, Depth Reporting Fall 2016

  • Boston College: Prof. Stephen Kurkjian, Investigative Journalism Critical Thinking

Whether your interest lies in the human interest story, breaking news, the exposé or in honing your critical thinking and writing skills, this course offers the practical skills necessary for mastering journalistic form, drawing on credible sources, reporting the facts, and sharpening your inquiry and interpretive skills. It also introduces students to the sources for public information including city and town halls, State House, court houses and regulatory agencies on both state and federal levels of government. Class will review the critical role that investigative reporting plays in in democratic societies. Students read, analyze and critique investigative journalism using Pulitzer Prize Feature Stories.

Boston College, Investigative Journalism Undergraduate Fall 2015 Syllabus

(Syllabus includes appendix with guidelines for syllabi and learning tools)

  • Boston College: Joseph Bergantino, Investigative Journalism

Investigative reporting holds the powerful accountable in government, business  and large institutions. This course will provide you with an opportunity to both learn about investigative journalism and do in-depth investigative reporting that has the potential to make a difference. Students will learn a variety of reporting techniques while working on semester-long investigative projects that could end up in several major newspapers across Massachusetts. Story subjects will focus on holding government agencies and powerful institutions accountable for a wide-range of problems and systemic failures.

Boston College, Investigative Journalism, Undergraduate Fall 2016

  • Columbia College Chicago: Jeff Kelly Lowenstein and Associate Prof. Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin, Investigative Reporting Project

This seminar course offers outstanding upper-level students the opportunity to do a significant piece of professional-level reporting and writing project, with a multimedia emphasis and suitable for publication.

Our aims for this course are that you gain the mindset and the tools of investigative reporting, develop an understanding of how these local stories connect to global issues, contribute to two pieces pitched and published in professional outlets, and contribute actively to a process blog.

Columbia College Chicago, Investigative Reporting Fall 2014 Syllabus

  • Columbia University: Prof. Sheila Coronel, Investigative Reporting Workshop

Over three weeks, participants in all media platforms examine what investigative journalism is and how to conceive, research and write such stories. The process involves recognizing when something should be a long-term project, basic criteria for launching into the story, testing and retesting the hypothesis throughout the investigation, and shifting direction when the reporting dictates that the story direction has changed. In this course students will be asked in think about possible investigative projects they want to work on upon their return to the workplace, using the lessons learned during the course. Workshops will be taught on creating databases, retrieving data from outside sources, locating and using public records in different parts of the world, utilizing financial documents, interviewing techniques, how to structure an investigative story, using multimedia to support projects, writing and editing a long-form narrative, and more.

Columbia University, Investigative Reporting Summer Workshop 2016

  • Indiana University: Assistant Professor Gerry Lanosga, Investigative Reporting

The goal of this course is to ground you in the heritage, tools and techniques of investigative and in-depth reporting. You will learn the practical skills of the investigative journalist both by studying professional investigative work and by doing your own work using tools such as public records and computer-assisted reporting. You will learn to conduct intensive backgrounding work using public records, to cultivate sources, to find and analyze data, and finally to produce a multi-platform investigative story in a compelling and understandable way.

Indiana University, Investgative Reporting Spring 2016 Syllabus

  • NYU: Prof. Joe Calderone, Investigative Reporting

This course seeks students interested in learning the skills necessary to produce exclusive, hard-edged, ground-breaking reporting, combining human sources with original, document-based research. Bloggers, Tweeters, aspiring TV talking heads and print reporters will learn how to cut through the noise and produce reporting that stands out, makes a difference.and gives them an edge in a crowded field.

The emphasis is on New York City-based fieldwork resulting in a capstone, semester-long investigative project of your choosing that is worthy of publication. You will learn how to develop ideas for a project, find and cultivate sources, pitch and write the story in a clear, compelling and fair fashion while adhering to the highest standards of accuracy and objectivity. You will see how to mine the records of courthouses, police agencies, property clerks, health agencies, City Hall, campaign finance, tax authorities and other municipal, nonprofit and law-enforcement offices for exclusive material. Your aim will be to produce a story that sheds a light on a little-known or hidden topic with important implications for the public and readers.

NYU, Investigative Reporting, Graduate Fall 2016

NYU, Investigative Reporting, Graduate Fall 2016 Syllabus

  • NYU: Prof. Mike McIntire, Investigative Reporting

Your objective will be to master basic investigative tools and techniques, as well as how to apply them to everyday reporting and major enterprise pieces. We will explore how to take advantage of the two main sources of information documents and people and discuss when and how to use computer data to both enhance a story or provide the foundation for a major project. Throughout the course, the goal will be to constantly delve beneath the surface. Going deep is the essence of investigative reporting, which pulls together all publicly available information, as well as harder-to-find material, to present the fullest possible picture. Corporations and powerful individuals employ armies of PR experts, lawyers and lobbyists to ensure that only their version of reality prevails, and it is the lonely duty of journalists to dispel this fog of self-interest. At least as important as mastering the technical skills will be learning to think critically and skeptically. The relentlessly upbeat press release, the carefully worded SEC filing or the late-Friday-afternoon earnings statement each, as a matter of course, should be probed for accuracy and omission. What important development went unsaid? Did the company chairman really resign to “spend more time with his family”?

NYU, Investigative Reporting Fall 2016 (Link to syllabus in course description)

  • Northwestern University: Associate Professor Louise Kathryn Kiernan, Investigative Reporting

In this course, students will examine investigative reporting from a historical, theoretical and ethical standpoint while developing essential hands-on skills to produce this work themselves. Through classroom and real-world experience, you will explore the power, limits and moral complexities of investigative reporting and encounter its struggles and triumphs firsthand. The class, co-taught by a Chicago Tribune reporter, will directly pursue a real-world journalism project. You should expect to spend significant time during and outside class hours conducting research and fieldwork and producing status reports. This course will help you analyze urgent, relevant and diverse issues; hone critical thinking, reporting and writing skills; and enrich your understanding of the communities and concerns that surround us.

Northwestern University, Investigative Reporting Fall 2016

Northwestern University, Investigative Reporting Spring 2016 Syllabus

Northwestern University, Investigative Reporting Spring 2016 Weekly Schedule

  • Northwestern University: Professor Alec Klein, Investigative Journalism

Students will be introduced to a variety of investigative techniques, interviewing skills, approaches to developing sources and employing public documents and databases. Of paramount importance in this class: student safety and adhering to the highest ethical standards in journalism. This is a two-unit course in which students are expected to devote a tremendous amount of time in the field, weekdays and weekends, doing real shoe-leather journalism, knocking on doors, digging for information and determining whether there has been a miscarriage of justice. Keep in mind: Investigative reporting is hard. Expect to confront roadblocks. Anticipate spinning your wheels. There will be frustrations and setbacks. And along the way, hopefully, you will learn to think like an investigative reporter, you will learn by doing and you will do it by the most honorable methods and, so, come closer to discovering the truth, whatever that truth is. For more information, please see The Medill Justice Project, which supports this class, at www.medilljusticeproject.org

Northwestern University, Investigative Journalism Fall 2016

  • Princeton University: Prof. Joe Stephens, Investigative Journalism – Accountability Reporting

Students will learn the sophisticated reporting, research and interviewing techniques that investigative reporters use to root out corruption in public and private institutions. While learning to produce compelling news pieces, students will discover how these tools can be used to advantage in other fields and everyday life. In addition to exploring new models of journalism (crowd-sourcing, social networking), we will meet with some of the nation’s most successful investigative journalists.

Princeton University, Investigative Journalism – Accountability Reporting Fall 2016

Princeton University, Investigative Journalism Fall 2016 Syllabus

  • Rutgers University: Investigative and In-Depth Reporting

In-depth reporting project using public records and other journalism investigative techniques.

By the end of the course, students will gain hands-on experience at investigative reporting.

Rutgers University, Investigative and In-Depth Reporting Spring 2016

  • Stanford University: Cheryl Phillips, Becoming a Watchdog: Investigative Reporting Techniques

Learn how to apply an investigative and data mindset to journalism, from understanding how to background an individual or entity using online databases to compiling or combining disparate sets of information in ways that unveil wrongdoing or mismanagement. Focuses on mining texts, tracking associations, and using visualizations. Stories produced apply investigative techniques to beat reporting, breaking news, and long form journalism. Prerequisite: COMM 104W, or consent of instructor.

Stanford University, Becoming a Watchdog Syllabus 2016

Stanford University, Investigative Reporting Techniques

  • Southern Illinois University: William Recktenwald, Investigative Journalism

By the end of the semester each student should have a clear understanding of how the implement the following:

-Develop a story idea that will become the foundation of the story.

-Find the information that will support the story idea.

-Analyze the information to support your story.

-Formulate a story outline.

-Write a draft of your story.

-Verify the accuracy and truthfulness of the information in your draft.

-Understand and prepare the delivery of your story to the public, multiplatform presentations will be required.

Southern Illinois University, Investigative Journalism Fall 2015 Syllabus

  • UC Berkeley: Timothy McGirk and Abbie Van Sickle, Investigative Reporting Workshop

This seminar will give students the opportunity to pursue individual investigative stories in the public interest. It will be run as a series of practical workshops, delving into the gritty details of each student’s project. Students will be taken through the crucial steps of investigative reporting, from finding a story, preferably within the region, to making the pitch to researching and organizing it into a compelling narrative worthy of publication in a prominent media outlet.

UC Berkeley, Investigative Reporting Workshop 2016

  • UC Berkeley: Lowell Bergman and Timothy McGirk, Investigative Reporting in Print, Broadcast and the Web

This class is both an introduction to the theory and practice of investigative reporting, as well as an opportunity for students to gain practical experience working collaboratively on a major in-depth reporting project. The seminar is both a place for students to be exposed to potential sources and practitioners of the craft as well as a venue to discuss and debate what we mean by “investigative reporting.”

UC Berkeley, Investigative Reporting in Print, Broadcast and the Web 2016

  • UC Santa Cruz: Peter Aldhous, Policy and Investigative Reporting

This class focuses on in-depth and investigative reporting, where science and technology meets public policy and society. We will cover essential skills of investigative reporting, including obtaining documents through Public Records Act requests, using online reporting resources, computer-assisted reporting, and ethical and legal issues. After 10 weeks, students will complete an article of ~2000 words, concentrating on an issue of societal/political importance.

UC Santa Cruz, Policy and Investigative Reporting, Spring 2016 Syllabus

  • University of Florida: Chris Davis, Investigative Reporting

Students in this course will learn to think like an investigative reporter and to apply the skills reporters use to uncover information no one wants you to have. You will learn how to track people down, how to uncover secrets in documents and data and how to get people to talk when they shouldn’t. You will learn how to push news stories beyond the typical, “he-said, she-said” by moving beyond the most basic questions journalists answer (who, what, when and where) and focusing more on why, how, so what and who is to blame? You will learn how to aks tough questions to people in power and the importance of holding them accountable.

University of Florida, Investigative Reporting Spring 2016 Syllabus

  • University of Florida: Cynthia Barnett, Environmental Journalism

This course will introduce you to Environmental Journalism and elucidate the roles and difference between journalism and communications; help you find the most accurate, credible, and timeliest information on science and issues; and ground you in the essentials of environmental reporting–discerning uncompromised expert sources, using descriptive storytelling to relate real-world impact, and tapping the primary databases, records and other tools commonly used by environmental reporters. You will publish your work on our C JC website devoted to Environmental Journalism: http://stateofwater.org or even better, in the popular media.

University of Florida, Environmental Journalism Spring 2016 Syllabus

  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: Brant Houston, Investigative Reporting

This course will show you how to do investigative and in-depth reporting with a special emphasis on using digital tools and electronic information. It will teach you how to go beyond the day-to-day journalism and how to bring context to your stories. It will teach you how to improve your credibility and accuracy by effectively searching the Web and downloading databases and documents, reading and analyzing those documents and databases, by interviewing people more effectively, and by getting out into the field and observing and recording what you see. You will use primary and secondary sources – people sources, paper sources, electronic documents and databases, both online and offline. You will learn how to organize your material and then write a compelling story that covers not only the “who, what, when and where,” but also the “why” and the “how.” After taking this course, you should be capable of doing better research and analysis than most practicing journalists. This course is intended to be extremely practical while at the same time causing you to think deeply about the stories you do and why you do those stories. This course will also deal with the daily ethical questions investigative journalists face.

University of Illinois, Investigative Reporting Spring 2016 Syllabus

A story that was written by students for Investigative Journalism in Spring 2016:

ijec.org/2016/06/10/construction-of-cronuse-fertilizer-plant-delayed-as-costs-soar/

  • University of Maryland: Associate Prof. Deborah Nelson, Investigative Reporting

This course uses a working-hospital approach to teaching investigative journalism. You will learn skills while producing a publishable, in-depth project on an issue with national significance and local impact on people’s lives. We will partner with other classes, disciplines and news organizations to prepare you for the collaborative model of investigative reporting used by many professional news organizations.

University of Maryland, Investigative Reporting 2016 Syllabus

  • University of Maryland: Associate Prof. Deborah Nelson, Media Law FOI Request Project

Each semester, we tackle a class public records project in collaboration with our reporting classes and/or with professional new organizations. Each student is assigned a federal, state or local government agency and a list of records to request. Each student produces one or more FOI letters in the first two weeks of the semester and then pursues the records until they are obtained or the semester ends.

University of Maryland, Media Law FOI Project Sheet 2016

  • University of Neuchâtel: Jean Philippe Ceppi, Investigative Journalism (Journalisme d’investigation)

Ce séminaire pratique vise à permettre aux étudiants de mener une véritable enquête de précision qui sera publiée dans un média romand, en transformant la salle de classe en salle de rédaction. Grâce à l’interaction entre l’équipe et à l’échange d’expériences en temps réel entre enseignant et collègues, le séminaire doit leur permettre d’acquérir les techniques de base du journalisme d’investigation et à les mettre en pratique.à travers un projet collectif, aussi proche du milieu professionnel que possible.

Translation:

This practical course is oriented towards allowing students to conduct a real investigation that might be published in Romandy media by transforming the classroom into a newsroom. Because of the interaction of the team and the exchange of experiences in real time with the instructor and colleagues, the course allows students to gather the basic techniques of investigative journalism and to put these skills into action through a group project that comes as close as possible to a professional environment.

Université de Nuechâtel, Journalisme d’investigation Autumn 2015 descriptif de cours

  • University of Neuchâtel: Gilles Labarthe, Introduction to Information Retrieval and Investigative Techniques (Introduction à la recherche d’informations et aux techniques d’enquête)

Ces travaux pratiques de 15 heures (blocs de 3+3+5+3 périodes) sont présentés en quatre volets :
1) Sources d’information et fact checking
2) Organisation de la recherche et méthodologie
3) Introduction aux techniques d’enquête
4) Outils de recherche avancée et veille stratégique

Translation:

The practical tasks of 15 hours come in four categories:
1) Sources of information and fact checking
2) Organization of the investigation and the methodology
3) Introduction to investigative techniques
4) Tools for advanced investigations and strategic monitoring

Université de Nuechâtel, Introduction à la recherche d’informations et aux techniques d’enquête Autumn 2016 descriptif de cours

  • University of Southern California: Gary Cohn, Investigative Reporting

Reportorial and analytical skills and techniques required for portraying and evaluating contemporary newsworthy events; lectures, discussions.

University of Southern California, Investigative Reporting Fall 2016

  • University of Southern California: Matthew Lait and John Glover, Introduction to Investigative Reporting

Focus on basic investigative reporting; understand its history, how to access records, identify sources, use computer assisted reporting, report in a fair and ethical manner. Open only to journalism majors.

University of Southern California, Introduction to Investigative Reporting Fall 2016

  • University of Texas, Austin: Doug Swanson, Investigative Reporting

This class is a hands-on, participatory, collaborative exercise in learning how to be an investigative reporter. We will, as a class and as individuals, pursue an investigative project that focuses on a Texas state agency. Our goal: By the end of the semester, each student will have reported and written a story of publishable quality. We’ll have a special emphasis on learning the basic tools of investigative reporting—how to pursue information, where to find essential documents and the ways to use state and federal public records laws. We’ll explore how to find crucial information on individuals, businesses, non-profits, court proceedings and government agencies. We’ll also learn other essential skills, such as dealing with sources, ensuring accuracy and “bullet-proofing” a story.

University of Texas, Austin, Investigative Reporting Spring 2016 Syllabus

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison: Investigative Reporting

This class will teach the techniques of investigative and long-form enterprise reporting. Students will engage in extensive reporting in the field, and produce a final project.

Investigative Reporting Fall 2016

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison: In-Depth Reporting

Advanced reporting with emphasis on critical evaluation of evidence and on recognizing the complex effects of government actions. Students will explore and develop community context stories that originate in a range of venues from the courts to the schools.

In-Depth Reporting Summer 2016

  • Wits University, Johannesburg: Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, Investigative Journalism (A)

Investigative Journalism (A) is intended to equip a journalist with a knowledge of investigative journalism in South Africa and the world, a knowledge of related ethical issues and a range of investigative skills. It will provide context and practical skills applied in a project for those wishing to develop an investigative perspective.

Wits University, Investigative Journalism (A) 2016 Syllabus