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Module Specifications..

Current Academic Year 2023 - 2024

Please note that this information is subject to change.

Module Title Case Studies in Investigative Journalism
Module Code CM2002
School School of Communications
Module Co-ordinatorSemester 1: Conor Tiernan
Semester 2: Conor Tiernan
Autumn: Conor Tiernan
Module TeachersConor Tiernan
NFQ level 8 Credit Rating 5
Pre-requisite None
Co-requisite None
Compatibles None
Incompatibles None
Coursework Only
The student must resubmitted a piece of assigned investigative reporting.

This module introduces students to the characteristics and core concepts of investigative reporting. In the first half of the module, it provides an overview of the essence and evolution of investigative reporting, its role in societies, its methods as well as its challenges. In the second half, it focuses on critical examination of key examples of investigative reporting from Ireland and elsewhere. Spanning both halves, the students also learn-by-doing by proposing, planning and executing a substantial piece of investigative work in a team setting. To facilitate this, 20-30 minutes each week (beginning from Week 2) are devoted to in-class peer-to-peer and peer-to-instructor problem-solving related to the investigative project the student teams are working on. Merging both practical and analytical learning, the module harnesses skills taught in other modules to instil a deep understanding of investigative reporting within national, regional and global contexts.

Learning Outcomes

1. •Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of previous investigative reporting
2. Understand the history and concepts of investigative reporting
3. Display an awareness of the problems encountered in conducting an investigation
4. Critically evaluate the ethical and legal constraints on investigative reporting
5. Display an awareness of sources relevant to investigative reporting
6. Work within a team setting to complete an in-depth investigation on a current affairs topic for publication or broadcast

Workload Full-time hours per semester
Type Hours Description
Lecture22No Description
Independent Study40Reading class materials and original investigative journalism
Assignment Completion63Working in teams to undertake an original piece of investigative reporting.
Total Workload: 125

All module information is indicative and subject to change. For further information,students are advised to refer to the University's Marks and Standards and Programme Specific Regulations at: http://www.dcu.ie/registry/examinations/index.shtml

Indicative Content and Learning Activities

Week 1: Investigative reporting: What is it?
The students will be given an overview of the module including assignments. Some class policies will be discussed and agreed upon in consensus. Individual and group learning goals will be identified through class discussion. Guiding question while preparing for this week is: 1. What are my three learning goals from this module? 2. Is all reporting investigative?

Week 2: Investigative reporting: But really, what is it?
Continuing from last week's discussion, the question of what exactly is investigative reporting will be further explored. The students will be informed about the team members they will be working with to prepare an investigative report for assessment. The topics each team will work on will be assigned. Guiding question while preparing for this week is: 1. What are the attributes that set apart investigative reporting from other types of reporting?

Week 3: Investigative reporting: where does it come from?
Students will build their knowledge of investigative reporting with an overview of the historical evolution of investigative journalism in the Anglophone context. Guiding question while preparing for this week is: 1. What role does investigative journalism play in democratic societies?

Week 4: Investigative reporting: how to build and develop an investigation strategically?
The students will build knowledge about best practices of investigative reporting focusing on how to identify, develop, and strategize for, an investigative report. They will also delve into how to identify and glean reliable information from existing open sources. Guiding questions while preparing for this week is: 1. What is the hypothesis at the heart of the topic my team is working on? 2. What open information sources can help to check this hypothesis?

Week 5: Investigative Reporting: Who do we talk to?
The students will build knowledge about best practices to glean reliable information from human sources in investigative reporting. Guiding questions while preparing for this week is: 1. Which sources are we missing still to check our hypothesis? 2. What barriers to the investigative processes can we expect to appear?

Week 6: Investigative Reporting: How to do it well?
In our class this week we will discuss how to do investigative reporting ethically. The National Union of Journalists’ fifth ethical guideline states that reporters must obtain “material by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means”. Based on this, the students will build knowledge on how to apply the ‘public interest test’ to their investigative projects. Guiding question while preparing for this week is: 1. What can we consider as public interest? 2. Does the investigative report my team is working on pass the public interest test?

Week 8: Case Study 1: Investigating the Catholic Church
This week marks the beginning of a series of speakers who will help students learn best practices of investigative reporting based on their own experience as investigative reporters. In addition to the required reading, students should find out as much as possible about investigative reporting in Irish news media on the Catholic Church, over the years. Specifically they should pay attention to the social and political impacts of the 1999 documentary States of Fear, directed by late Mary Raferty.

Week 9: Case Study 2: Investigating the Finance Sector
In addition to the required reading, students should find out as much as possible about investigative reports by Irish news organisations on the collusions and corruption in the banking sector that led to the 2011 collapse of financial institutions in Ireland. Specifically pay attention to reportage on the Anglo Irish Bank.

Case Study 3: Cross-Border Investigations: The Panama Papers
In addition to the required reading, students should find out as much as possible about the international collaborative investigative journalistic project known as the Panama Papers investigation. Research the political impact of reportage based on this investigation around the world as well as in Ireland.

Week 11: Case Study 4: Cross-Border Investigative Reporting: Ojo Publico (Latin America).
Read the multi-country investigative report ‘Multinational pharmaceutical companies… Latin America’ assigned for this week. Familiarise yourself as much as you can with the other investigative reportage from the Big Pharma Project by Ojo Publico.

Week 12: Investigative Reporting: Lessons Learnt
In this final session, we will review the case studies we have heard about and collate the different lessons about investigative reporting each of them provide. Each investigative team will speak briefly about three lessons they have gleaned from the different case studies and through interactions with the guest speakers and if and how these have had an impact on the report they have been investigating for. The class will then revisit the learning goals that we identified at the beginning of the module and see which they have been able to attain individually and as a group.

Assessment Breakdown
Continuous Assessment100% Examination Weight0%
Course Work Breakdown
TypeDescription% of totalAssessment Date
AssignmentAssignment 1: Investigative Reporting: Planning Each team will present a written plan (1000 words) on how they intend to implement its investigation in terms of: Division of labour within team Identification of hypothesis to be investigated Identification of documentary evidence to pursue Identification of relevant online resources Identification of potential interviewees15%n/a
PresentationBuilding on the written plan, each team will present a 5-minute-long oral pitch for their investigative report in class. This will be followed by a 5 minute question and answer session with their peers (the other teams) who will ask them questions about their projects. The team pitch should address the following points: What is the report about? Why is it in the public interest to report on this issue? What social and political impacts are hoped for with this report?15%n/a
AssignmentAssignment 3: Investigative Reporting: Publishing Each team of six (or seven in one case) is required to carry out investigation on their assigned topic and complete a series of at least three 700-word reports for publication. However teams can consult with me whether equivalent work they undertake such as producing infographics, photo-series or short videos accompanying written text can replace one or more of the three 700 word reports. Please note that we will work to reach a consensus on such equivalencies but I would have to make the final call so as to be fair to all students.70%n/a
Reassessment Requirement Type
Resit arrangements are explained by the following categories;
1 = A resit is available for all components of the module
2 = No resit is available for 100% continuous assessment module
3 = No resit is available for the continuous assessment component
This module is category 1
Indicative Reading List

  • UNESCO: 2011, Story-based inquiry: A manual for investigative journalists, UNESCO,
  • Craig Silverman: 2013, Verification Handbook, European Journalism Centre, Maastricht,
  • De Burgh et al: 2008, Investigative Journalism,
Other Resources

Programme or List of Programmes
JRBA in Journalism

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