Investigative Journalism Manuals


Looking for tips, tools, and tutorials? The below guides focus on investigative journalism and provide case studies and examples from around the world. Most are available for free, unless indicated otherwise.

You can also find our guide to the guides in Chinese and Spanish. Have an addition that you’d like to share? Send us an email and let us know.

Investigative Journalism

Digging Deeper: A Guide for Investigative Journalists in the Balkans: This guide published by BIRN and available for purchase, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, focuses on how to dig up records and data in the region.  Author Sheila Coronel, director of Columbia University’s Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, also offers tips and techniques on investigative reporting. Languages: English, Macedonian.

Follow Money EnglishFollow the Money: A Digital Guide to Tracking Corruption: This free handbook is published by the International Center for Journalists. Languages: English, Russian, Georgian

Global Investigative Journalism Casebook: This casebook accompanies Story-Based Inquiry (see below). Investigative articles with background on how the reporters researched and wrote the story. Languages: English

Global Investigative Journalism: Strategies for Support:  A survey and discussion of the global spread of investigative journalism by GIJN’s David E. Kaplan, with tips on structure of investigative nonprofits and funding sources, plus a guide to groups worldwide. Published by the Center for International Media Assistance. Languages: English

Guide to Investigative Journalism: This simple 2007 series by the Public Broadcasting Service in the U.S. takes the reporter through how to identify a story, conduct an investigative interview, locate and obtain documents, package your story and get it out to the public. Languages: English

Hidden Scenario, by Luuk Sengers and Mark Lee Hunter [Available for purchase from the Centre for Investigative Journalism]. Shows how story-telling techniques can give structure and focus to investigative journalism. Languages: English.

Introduction to Investigative Reporting, by Brant Houston (Poynter News University). This self-directed online course costs US$29.95.

religionInvestigating Religion: An Investigative Reporter’s Guide, by Debra L. Mason and Amy B. White [available for purchase from IRE]. Languages: English

Investigative Journalism ManualPublished by the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR), this comprehensive guide offers a wealth of tips, with special sections on health and ethics, and case studies from across Africa. Languages: English, French, Portuguese

Investigative Journalist’s Guide to Company Accounts by Raj Bairolya. Published by the Centre for Investigative Journalism and available for purchase, the guide is for investigative journalists who need to make sense of a set of company accounts (mostly trading companies) or to obtain an overview of a business in order to ask “on-the-money” questions.

Investigative Online Search: This guide, published by the UK-based Centre for Investigative Journalism in 2011, discusses how to find information online and verify its veracity. Languages: English

photographyInvestigative Photography: Supporting a Story with Pictures, by CJ Clarke, Damien Spleeters, and Juliet Ferguson [available for purchase from the Centre for Investigative Journalism]. Languages: English

Investigative Reporter’s Handbook, 5th Edition, by Brant Houston and Investigative Reporters and Editors. The classic guide to muckraking is available for purchase from IRE. Languages: English

Investigative Reporting: A Toolkit for Reporters: A 107-page guide published in 2009 by the US Center for International Private Enterprise and funded by USAID and the Al-Masry Al-Youm for Journalism and Publication. Languages: English

Investigative Reporting in Emerging Democracies: Models, Challenges, and Lessons Learned: A report by Drew Sullivan of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, with tips on designing programs, upholding standards, the need for editors, safety, and more. Published by the Center for International Media Assistance. Languages: English

Manual for Arab Journalists on Freedom of Information and Investigative Reporting: A free, downloadable, 21-page handbook by Article 19, funded by the United Nations Development Programme. Languages: EnglishArabic

Raising Hell: A Citizen’s Guide to the Fine Art of Investigation (PDF): The Center for Investigative Reporting, the world’s first nonprofit investigative reporting center, offers this guide to train the general public on how to “investigate, uncover corruption and expose the weak spots of power.” Languages: English

unescoRecherche in der Praxis: Informanten zum Reden bringen, Fakten hart machen, Missstände aufdecken (Research in Practice: Get Informants to Talk, Get Hard Facts, and Uncover Abuses by Catherine Boss and Dominique Strebel [available for purchase]. Languages: German

Story-Based Inquiry: A comprehensive guide to investigative reporting, co-authored by Mark Hunter, Drew Sullivan, Pia Thosden, Rana Sabbagh and Luuk Sengers. This UNESCO-funded manual uses case studies to illustrate methods and skills, including research, writing, quality control, and dissemination. Languages: English (PDF); Arabic | العربية (PDF); Chinese  | 中文 (PDF); French | Français (PDF); Russian | русский (PDF); Portuguese | Português (PDF); Spanish | Español (PDF).

The Story Tells the Facts, by Mark Lee Hunter and Luuk Sengers, [available for purchase from the Centre for Investigative Journalism]. Demonstrates narrative techniques, including how to compose a story that hits hard and fast, and builds to a powerful end. Languages: English.

Undercover Reporting is not a manual but an online database and resource center, which grew out of research for the book Undercover Reporting: The Truth About Deception The site includes scores of examples going back more than 100 years.

A Watchdog’s Guide to Investigative Reporting: Emphasizes reporting in Africa. This 2005 English-language Manual “provides examples of good practice and looks at the challenges of this discipline for those curious about pursuing investigative assignments.” Languages: English

Exposing the Truth: A Guide to Investigative Reporting in Albania: This 73-page manual uses cases studies and proven tips and techniques. Published by OSCE and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. Languages: Albanian, English.

Data Journalism

CARComputer-Assisted Reporting: A Comprehensive Primer: By Fred Vallance-Jones and David McKie [available for purchase]. Languages: English

Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide: the 4th edition by Brant Houston [available for purchase]. Languages: English

Computer-Assisted Research: Information Strategies and Tools for Journalists: By Nora Paul and Kathleen A. Hansen [available for purchase from IRE]. Languages: English

Data Journalism is a handbook for journalists who want to master the art of interrogating and questioning numbers competently. Authors Elena Egawhary and Cynthia O’Murchu guide users through the basics to be able to find and use numbers in stories. Published by the Centre for Investigative Reporting. Languages: English

Data Journalism Handbook is an international, collaborative effort involving dozens of data journalism experts. Includes definitions, case studies, and tips on how to get, use, and analyze data. An initiative of the European Journalism Centre and the Open Knowledge Foundation. Languages: Available for download in ArabicEnglish, French, Russian, and Spanish. The handbook is also being translated into several other languages, including Georgian.

handbookFlowing Data is run by statistician Nathan Yau, author of Data Points: Visualization that Means Something and Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics. The Learning to Data section has links to tutorials, books, and guides related to working with data.

Mapping for Stories: A Computer-Assisted Reporting Guide, By Jennifer LaFleur and Andy Lehren [available for purchase from IRE]. Languages: English

NodeXL for Network Analysis is a primer on using Excel’s free, open-source template program for exploring network graphs, NodeXL. It was put together by Peter Aldhous, a science journalist.

Precision Journalism: a Reporter’s Introduction to Social Science Methods, by Philip Meyer [available for purchase]. Languages: English

For more information on general data journalism resources, see our Data Journalism Resource Page.

Teaching and Training

educationDig Deep & Aim HighThe International Center for Journalists published a guide on how to teach investigative techniques. Languages: English

Model Curricula for Journalism Education: A guide targeted at journalism faculty in developing countries and emerging democracies. Developed by UNESCO, the manual offers syllabi for 17 courses – including investigative reporting – that can be tailored to the needs of each country. Languages: English (PDF); French | Français (PDF); Spanish | Español (PDF); Russian | Pусский (PDF); Arabic | العربية (PDF); Chinese | 中文 (PDF); Nepali (PDF); Portuguese | Português (PDF); Farsi | فارسی (PDF).

Other Useful Guides

empoweringEmpowering Independent Media: U.S. Efforts to Foster a Free Press and an Open Internet Around the World: A comprehensive look at media development, useful for media nonprofits and NGOs in developing and transitioning countries. Covers seven core areas of media development: funding, digital media, sustainability, media law, safety, education, and monitoring and evaluation. Languages: English, Spanish, French.

Journalist Survival Guide: Produced by the Beirut-based Samir Kassir Foundation, this animated guide is designed to primarily aid journalists and activists working in war zones and conflict areas, but also includes tips on digital security and covering your tracks. Languages: English, Arabic

Legal Leaks Toolkit: A Guide for Journalists on How To Access Government Information: A useful 75-page booklet covers basics for journalists going through formal channels to obtain official documents. Prepared by Access Info Europe and the Network for Reporting on Eastern Europe n-ost. Available in English, Italian, and eight Eastern European languages.

ReportingAtrocitiesToolkitReporting Atrocities: A Toolbox for Journalists Covering Violent Conflict and Atrocities: This detailed, 61-page guide looks at the nature of conflict, how to cover it, and the role of the journalist in such situations. Written by South African journalist Peter du Toit and published by Internews. Languages: English

Reporting on Corruption: A Resource Tool for
Governments and Journalists: This 117-page guidebook by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime gets mired in bureaucratic discussion and UN-speak, but there are useful case studies and resources. Includes protection of sources, right to information, and self-regulatory measures.

SEEMO Safety Net Manual: Guidelines for Journalists in Extraordinary or Emergency Situations: This safety manual–published by the South East Europe Media Organization–is part of a wider initiative to protect media workers in the region. Languages: English and, upon request, in Serbian, Italian, Romanian, Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, Croatian, and Slovenian.

Tragedies & Journalists: A 40-page guide with practical tips to help journalists, photojournalists and editors report on violence while protecting both victims and themselves. Published by the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma, and written by Joe Hight and Frank Smyth. Languages: English, Spanish, 中文 (Chinese).

Verification Handbook is a resource for journalists and aid providers from the European Journalism Centre. It provides the tools, techniques and step-by-step guidelines for how to deal with user-generated content (UGC) during emergencies. Languages: English, Português العربية , Español.

Who’s Running the Company: A Guide to Reporting on Corporate Governance: An introduction to reporting on corporate governance, with sections on boards of directors, financial reports, and tracking company performance. Produced by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation with the International Center for Journalists. Languages: English (PDF); French | Français (PDF); Spanish | Español (PDF); Bahasa Indonesia (PDF); Mongolian | МОНГОЛ ХЭЛ (PDF); Arabic | العربية (PDF); Russian | Pусский (PDF); and Portuguese | Português (PDF).

Security and Covering Conflict: IJNet has compiled a list of guides to journalist security and covering conflict from various organizations. Some are available in multiple languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish.

Spanish Only

The following guides are available only in Spanish. See also the reports listed above — several are published in Spanish — and also this full resource page en Español.

manualCómo Investigar Temas Ambientales (Investigating Environmental Issues): A guide to investigating environmental issues in South America.

Guía Práctica sobre Periodismo de Datos (Practical Guide to Data Journalism) by Sandra Crucianelli, a Knight International Journalism Fellow. The guide provides tips on data visualization and explores case studies of reporters engaging in data journalism. It is published by the International Center for Journalists.

Manual de Periodismo de Datos Iberoamericano (Latin American Handbook of Data Journalism) provides tips and tutorials on data mining, deep web searches, data visualization, and more. The guide for Spanish-speaking reporters is published by the Poderomedia Foundation in partnership with the School of Journalism at the University Alberto Hurtado.

impertinenceMétodos de la Impertinencia (Methods of Impertinence)The Venezuelan chapter of the Press and Society Institute (IPYS) released a collection of best practices and lessons for investigative journalism in Latin America. The book combines testimonies from 10 prominent journalists from the region.

Periodismo de Investigacion (Investigative Journalism) by Gerardo Reyes. A comprehensive primer into investigative reporting in Latin America that includes sections on strategies and methodology.

Periodista de Investigacion Latinoamericano en la Era Digital (The Latin American Journalist: Research in the Digital Age) is produced by  the Initiative for Journalism Research in the Americas and ICFJ in partnership with Connectas, and co-written by  Nathalia Salamanca, Jorge Luis Sierra, and Carlos Eduardo Huertas.