MCT542: Digital Investigation

School Cardiff School of Journalism, Media & Cult'l Stud
Department Code JOMEC
Module Code MCT542
External Subject Code P500
Number of Credits 20
Level L7
Language of Delivery English
Module Leader Dr Aidan O'Donnell
Semester Spring Semester
Academic Year 2019/0

Outline Description of Module

The aim of this module is to allow students to develop skills in inquiry led digital investigation while working as a team. It will allow them to gather and interrogate information, to build “stories as a service” or newsroom tools, delivering interactive projects along the lines of Trinity Mirror’s schools site, the work of Propublica and the BBC’s house prices app which go beyond storytelling with supporting visualisations or data explainers.

It’s focus is on real-world issues and investigating issues that matter to communities.

The module will build on the more technically-demanding skills of data journalism in a team setting, allowing students to develop and build on ideas from the first semester. These skills will be explored in practical and taught sessions to allow students to develop skills which will be of use in the modern newsroom.

On completion of the module a student should be able to

Demonstrate an understanding of the story-based inquiry method and hypothesis driven research

Apply data journalism storytelling skills

Work with data as a component of a product/story development

Produce publishable or releasable content

How the module will be delivered

The module is mostly taught through a practical team-based project supplemented with lecturer support sessions and additional material as required.

The students will be expected to engage in self-directed project work, with weekly progress meetings with lecturing staff, and a weekly whole group supervised session which will allow tutors to support students with clinics in both coding and journalistic elements of the module, to encourage problem solving within the assessed projects.

Skills that will be practised and developed

Team working and communication

Tools for effective team management and shared working

Data analysis

‘Product’ development for a defined audience

Individual reflection in practice

How the module will be assessed

1.         Group investigation project 70%

This is an opportunity for small teams to develop and instigate a real world product around an agreed topic, such as a data story, a newsroom tool, or a story service. The teams will be expected to record their progress as they use both data and community interviews to source information. Links to the substantive project will be submitted to the course team alongside a report detailing and evaluating the report.


2.         Reflective report 30%

Each team member will be expected to keep a reflective journal of their learnings from formal sessions and from the project, which will be submitted as part of a reflective report into the project and its outcomes.



You will receive detailed written comments regarding each assignment. All assessed coursework will be returned within 4 weeks.

Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs)
Written Assessment 30 Reflective Report N/A
Written Assessment 70 Group Investigation Project N/A

Syllabus content

Week 1

Group forming, initial pitches.

Team working, project management and tools.


Weeks 2 - 10

Project work


Week 11

Final presentations and project showcase

Essential Reading and Resource List

Course resources

Both the syllabus and key resources will be available via a module website. Key code examples will be available on the module Github repository (link to come)

Background Reading and Resource List

Banavar G S, Cohen N H and Narayanaswami C. (2010) “Pervasive Computing: An Application-Based Approach” Wiley-Blackwell

Bradshaw, P., Rohumaa, L., 2011. The online journalism handbook  : skills to survive and thrive in the digital age, 1st ed. ed. Longman, Harlow  ;;Essex  ;;New York.
Bradshaw, P., 2013. Scraping for Journalists, Leanpub
Brand, S., 1988. The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at M. I. T., First Edition. ed. Penguin (Non-Classics).

Benyon, D (2010) “Designing Interactive Systems: A comprehensive guide to HCI and Interaction Design, Pearson
Blastland, M., Dilnot, A., 2008. The Tiger That Isn’t: Seeing Through a World of Numbers. Profile Books Ltd.

Boslaugh, S., Watters, P. A., 2008. Statistics in a Nutshell. O’Reilly
Briggs, M., 2010. JournalismNext: a practical guide to digital reporting and publishing. CQ Press, Washington, D.C.
Cooper, A. (1999) "The Inmates are Running the Asylum", Indianapolis, SAMS Publishing. DeFleur, M.H., 1997. Computer-Assisted Investigative Reporting: Development and Methodology. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc, New Jersey, USA.
Diakopoulos, N Cultivating the Landscape of Innovation in Computational Journalism. Tow- Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. April 2012.
Gray, J., Chambers, L., Bounegru, L., 2012. The Data Journalism Handbook. O’Reilly Media. Gynnild, A., 2013. Journalism innovation leads to innovation journalism: The impact of computational exploration on changing mindsets. Journalism.
Hansen C D and Johnson C R. (2004) “Visualization Handbook”, Academic Press
Holmes, T., Hadwin, S., Mottershead, G., 2012. 21st century journalism handbook: essential skills for the modern journalist. Pearson, Harlow.
Huang W, Alem L and Livingston M A. (2013) “Human Factors in Augmented Reality Environments”, Springer, ISBN: 978-1-4614-4204-2 (Print)
Hunter, M.L. (Ed.), 2011. Story-based inquiry a manual for investigative journalists. UNESCO, Paris.
Marshall, S., 2012. How to: bring agile into the newsroom.
McCandless, D., 2012. Information is beautiful. Collins, London.
Meyer, P., 2002. Precision Journalism - A reporter’s Introduction to Social Science Methods, fourth edition. ed. Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, USA.
Miller, C. 2013. Getting Started With Datajournalism: Writing Data Stories In Any Size Newsroom, Leanpub.
Norman, D. (1990) "The Design of Everyday Things", New York, Doubleday.
Paul, N.M., 1999. Computer-Assisted Research: A Guide to Tapping Online Information. Bonus

Books Inc and The Poynter Institute forMedia Studies, USA.

Raskin, J. (2000) "The Humane Interface", Boston, Addison-Wesley.
Sense about Science, Straight Statistics, 2010. Making sense of statistics. Sense About Science.
Tufte E R. (1990) “Envisioning Information” Graphic Press USA.
Identity Management: Concepts, Technologies, and Systems, Bertino E and Takahashi K, Artech House Publishers,
ISBN 9781608070398
Network Security: Private Communication in a Public World, Kaufman C, Perlman R, and Speciner M. (2nd edition), Prentice Hall , ISBN 0130460192

Security Engineering, 2nd edition, Anderson R J, John Wiley, ISBN 978-0-470-06852-6 “Social Network Analysis for Startups: Finding connections on the social web” by Maksim Tsvetovat and Alexander Kouznetsov, O’Reilly Media, 2007.
“Graph Theory and Complex Networks”by Maarten Van Steen, 2010.

Think Python! (
Learning Python, Lutz, 4th edition, O’Reilly
Python Cookbook, Alex Martelli, 2nd edition, O’Reilly, 2010
Database Systems: A Practical Approach to Design, Implementation and Management, 5th Edition,T. Connolly and C. Begg, Addison-Wesley, 2009.

Data Structures and Algorithms, Michael T. Goodrich, Wiley

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