MCT542: Digital Investigation

School Cardiff School of Journalism, Media & Cult'l Stud
Department Code JOMEC
Module Code MCT542
External Subject Code 100442
Number of Credits 20
Level L7
Language of Delivery English
Module Leader Dr Aidan O'Donnell
Semester Spring Semester
Academic Year 2021/2

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.

Its 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 70 Group Investigation Project N/A
Written Assessment 30 Reflective Report N/A

Syllabus content

Projects will be reviewed weekly by module leaders during bi-weekly workshops and any journalistic or technical support provided. The main interim points are as follows:

Week 1. Formation of groups. Presentation of module brief and technical methodologies

Week 2. Project pitching in groups and review.

Week 5. Mid-way crit with group presentations of project progress

Week 11. Final presentations and submissions.

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