Story-Based Inquiry

Story-Based Inquiry is practiced around the world. It has been hailed for its robustness and simplicity. If you are unsure of how to undertake long-form projects, or feel the need to make your work more efficient and powerful, this seminar with the creators of Story-Based Inquiry will help you.

Story-Based Inquiry is a method for researching and writing long form journalism as a single integrated process. It begins with a hypothesis, a provisional story that defines and guides our project. A timeline and source map pinpoint what we are looking for and where to find it. A master file keeps the research together, serves as the backbone for the finished narrative, and provides a database for future projects.

Part 1: The basis.
Hypothesise your story Investigation has a dirty name with editors, who think it’s about slowly rummaging through piles of garbage till you find (or don’t find) a jewel. Too often, they’re right. This session will show you how to choose a subject and define your investigation as a story from the start, using hypotheses. The method helps you figure out what to look for, how to look for it and how to sell it to your boss and the public.

Part 2: Creative Techniques.
Timeline and Scenario In this session we map the plot of a story – a sequence of events that must have occurred, which we can subsequently verify and enrich. Simultaneously, we create scenes, with characters whose actions and conflicts define the content and meaning of the story. These events lead to the sources you need.

Part 3: Build assets for the story and beyond.
Source Mapping and MasterFile This session begins with an extension of the timeline -- a map of the actors in your story and the sources they hold. Now that we've shown you where to acquire information assets, we'll show you how to optimise them! We'll create a simple but effective database in which you collect the results of your investigation. This "Masterfile" makes it easier to structure your story - the hardest part of composition. It's a way to write while you research, instead of first researching and then writing. It's also a way to build resources for a long, successful career.

Part 4: Craft the Story.
Narrative effects and quality control This session shows you how to compose a story that hits hard and fast, and builds to a powerful conclusion. The core of this method is continuous composition and referencing - an approach that saves both time and anguish, for you and your colleagues. We turn the Masterfile into a narrative structure based on a chronology or a sequence of themes and characters. We apply techniques for controlling rhythm, the element that keeps your audience watching. We finish with quality control - reducing the risk of mistakes that can cause damage to others and your own reputation.

Participants are urged to provide their own project ideas, outlines, or a published sample before the seminar. We will use this material in class, as a basis for instruction and coaching. All participants agree not to use each others’ ideas for their own purposes, except in explicit partnership.

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Data Journalism

Data are just another source of information. But a very rich source. Data are collected and kept to make sense of complex processes - and ultimately to influence these processes. Policy makers and company directors would have a hard time reaching decissions without data. Just like them, journalists can use data to discover trends, correlations, exceptions and examples.

Learn how to ‘interview’ data for original stories or to support your research. Detect differences, trends, examples, exceptions, interests and relations that you would never have spotted without data. We teach Excel, SQL and R, as well as scraping, cleaning, and visualising.  

After the course you can find data and ‘interview’ them for original stories or to support your research. You will be able to detect differences, trends, exceptions, examples and correlations and to present the conclusions in graphics and maps.


Part 1: Introduction
What are data? What is datajournalism? Why should you do it? Who did it before you?

Part 2: Creating rankings, spotting trends: the calculative power of Excel
We will use formulas in Excel to quickly calculate differences, averages, means, modes, percentage change and percentage of total in lists with numbers.

Part 3: Finding exceptions and examples: advanced filtering in Excel
We will use the advanced filter function of Excel to find data bigger than and smaller than average.

Part 4:Interviewing data with pivot tables
The function 'pivot table' turns your laptop into a quick and easy data analyser. Think of a journalistic relevant question and let the pivot table present the answer.

Part 5: Presenting data on a map
We will use Google to put data with geographical references on a nice map.

Part 6: Discovering correlations between data with statistics
What if one set of data (like income of parents) influences another set (like school results of children)? How do you know if there is really a relationship?

Part 7: Where do you find suitable data?
We will hunt for data on the Internet. And we discuss what to ask for when dealing with authorities that keep data and what is takes to collect data yourself and build your own database. We will also extract data from pdf- and csv-files.


Working with R
Working with data goes much faster if you can code. The coding language R has conquered the hearts of many data journalists in a short time. The software is free and available for both PC and Mac. Scrape, clean up, analyze and visualize - it can all be done in R, in one clear workflow. R also makes it easier to collaborate. We offer hands-on training from absolute beginner to more advanced, with international data for exercises.

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