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Module Title
Investigative Journalism


SCQF Points30
ECTS Points15
CreatedApril 2016
ApprovedJuly 2016
Version No.1

This Version is No Longer Current
The latest version of this module is available here
Prerequisites for Module

None, in addition to SCQF 10 entry requirements or equivalent.

Corequisite Modules


Precluded Modules


Aims of Module

To enable students to critically interrogate the concept of investigative journalism and the practical, ethical and legal constraints within which practitioners operate; develop a detailed understanding of its evolution over time;
appreciate the relative merits, limitations and criticisms of recent developments in the field; and work independently and/or collaboratively to write an extended research essay and produce a professional investigative journalism project.

Learning Outcomes for Module

On completion of this module, students are expected to be able to:

1. On successful completion of the module, students are expected to have:
• Demonstrated a detailed knowledge of the nature and scope of investigative reporting, and the ethical, practical and professional issues and debates underpinning it.

2. • Utilised a range of sources and engaged with different theoretical and practical approaches to explore the concept of investigative reporting in all its forms.

3. • Shown an ability to work independently and to manage their time effectively while working on their seminar presentations, extended essays and practical investigations.

4. • Displayed an ability to engage in in-depth and reflective academic and journalistic research and interrogate relevant primary sources in appropriate ways through their seminar contributions and summative assessments.

Indicative Module Content

This module focuses on exploring the nature and purpose of investigative journalism and how it is carried out. It will seek to discriminate between the various types of investigative reporting – from forensic document-trawling to undercover exposes to risky reportage to ‘crusading’ or ‘campaigning journalism’. Formal teaching will be minimised in semester two, with students expected to lead seminars and use workshops to develop their own assessed project ideas, with input from their peers and under their tutor's supervision. While later sessions will be given over to independent study, earlier ones will be directed by the tutor to explore the meaning of the term investigative journalism; its scope and limitations; and the legal, ethical, health and safety and other issues and dilemmas it poses for practitioners.

Indicative Student Workload

Contact Hours

Full Time
Lectures, seminars, lab-based workshops, individual/group supervisions, assessment

Directed Study

Self-directed learning and field research, individually or in groups

Private Study

Library/archive work, background reading

Mode of Delivery

This module is delivered over two semesters and involves a mixture of lectures, discursive seminars, practical workshops and one-to-one/group supervisions. Students are expected to prepare for seminars and contribute to - and, occasionally, lead - discussion of topics, based on a mix of set reading and wider research into the issues covered. Where possible, specialist practitioners in the field will be invited to lead seminars and/or offer practical advice and training. In Semester 2, the module will become more self-directed, with lectures replaced by 'problem-solving' workshops and practical lab sessions designed to help students progress their research essays and investigations.

Assessment Plan

Learning Outcomes Assessed
Component 1 1,2,3,4
Component 2 1,2,3,4

A piece of investigative journalism of 2,500-3,500 words or equivalent - to be produced in print/online, video, audio or another multimedia format. (50%)

An extended research essay of 5-6,000 words, focusing on a key issue/debate related to the work of investigative journalists and/or the concept of investigative journalism. (50%)

Indicative Bibliography

1.BAUSUM, A., 2007. Muckrakers: how Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens helped. Washington: National Geographic Society.
2.BURSTINER, M., 2017. Investigative reporting: from premise to publication. Oxford: Routledge. Kindle edition.
3.CAPOTE, T., 2002. In cold blood. New York: Random House
4.DE BURGH, H., 2008. 2nd edition. Investigative journalism: context and practice. London: Routledge. Kindle e-book.
5.GAINES, W.C., 2007. Investigative journalism: proven srategies for reporting the story. Washington: CQ Press.
6.PALAST, G., 2016. The best democracy money can buy. New York: Seven Stories Press.
7.PILGER, J., 2011. Tell me no lies: investigative journalism and its triumphs, New York: Vintage. Kindle edition.
8.SPARK, D., 2012. Investigative reporting: a study in technique. Oxford: Focal Press. Kindle edition.
WOODWARD, B. and BERNSTEIN, C., 2012. All the president's men. New York: Simon and Schuster. Kindle edition.

Robert Gordon University, Garthdee House, Aberdeen, AB10 7QB, Scotland, UK: a Scottish charity, registration No. SC013781