This senior-level course will introduce students to all phases of data journalism, including: finding and evaluating data sources, organizing data, reporting with numbers, and visualizing data. During the course we will discuss computer programming, data analysis, statistics, graphic design and other salient topic. I do not expect any of you to be experts in these fields, but I expect you to be motivated enough to learn what you need to learn to complete class assignments.


Most of the readings will be posted on the course website, but you will also be required to purchase the following books:

* There is a free web version of the Data Journalism Handbook, which you can use.


Short Assignments: Throughout the semester, there will be numerous in-class exercises and homework assignments. All assignments must be completed and turned in on time.  The short assignments will account for 50 percent of your final grade.

Semester-Long Project: Over the course of the semester, you and a partner will create a unique data-driven news story. There are no specific criteria for this project, but it must be approved by the professor. To make sure everyone is on the right track, there will be four process assignments, before you turn in the final project.

  1. Proposal – On January 23, your group will be asked to pitch your project to class. This process will be similar to a newsroom morning meeting. We will discuss the details of the proposal in class, but here are some initial suggestions from the Poynter Institute.
  2. Data Plan – On February 6, you will discuss your data plan. What data are you using? How are you going to get that data? What relationships/information are you looking for from that data?
  3. Storyboard – On March 13, you will present storyboards for your project.
  4. Class Critique – On April 22, you will present a draft of your final project, which will be critiqued by your classmates.

The final project will be due during finals week. The final project is worth 40 percent of your final grade, and each process assignment is worth 2.5 percent of your final grade.


Attendance: Attendance is required, and there are no “excused” absences in this class. However, I recognize that people may need to miss a class or two for various reasons. Absences will be dealt with on a per student per situation basis. Please see the “Readings and Participation” and “Missed or Late Exams or Assignments” portions of the syllabus for other important information regarding attendance.

Missed or Late Quizzes and Assignments: By definition, late quizzes and assignments are below average, and are unfair to those who are prepared. As a general rule, if you do not take the quiz or hand in an assignment on the scheduled day and time, you will receive a zero for a grade on that exam or assignment. The instructor will notify you in class how and when the assignment should be submitted. Assignments not submitted using the specified method or after the specified deadline will not be accepted. In the rare case when a make-up quiz or late assignment is approved by the instructor, you will still have 10% deducted from your grade for each day it is late (including weekends). A few additional things to note regarding late quizzes and assignments:  (1) Students arriving after any other student has finished the current quiz will not be permitted to take the quiz and will receive a zero; (2) in the rare case when a make-up quiz is approved, the quiz may contain different questions and/or be in a different format than the original quiz; and (3) quiz and assignments turned in more than one week late will receive a zero for a grade.

Readings and Participation: All readings should be done prior to the assigned class period. Students are expected to participate fully and constructively in class discussions and activities.

Classroom Civility: We want to build a classroom climate that is comfortable for all. In a communication class, it is especially important that we (1) display respect for all members of the classroom – including the instructor and students, (2) pay attention to and participate in all class sessions and activities; (3) avoid unnecessary disruption during class time (e.g., having private conversations, reading the newspaper, doing work for other classes, making/receiving cell phone calls, text messaging, etc.); and (4) avoid racist, sexist, homophobic or other negative language that may unnecessarily exclude members of our campus and classroom. This is not an exhaustive list of behaviors; rather, they represent the minimal standards that help make the classroom a productive place for all concerned. Your final grade may be reduced by 1% each time you engage in these sorts of behavior.

Diversity Statement: The College of Communication and Information recognizes and values diversity. Exposing students to diverse people, ideas and cultures increases opportunities for intellectual inquiry, encourages critical thinking, and enhances communication and information competence. When all viewpoints are heard, thoughtfully considered, and respectfully responded to, everyone benefits. Diversity and fairness unite us with the wider professional and global community.

E-mail and Computer Work: We will use electronic mail for class updates. Please read your mail regularly (at least once per day) so you can keep up-to-date on upcoming assignments.

Plagarism: Cheating and plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated. The University of Tennessee’s Academic Standards of Conduct (pp. 12-14 of Hilltopics) defines plagiarism as: “using the intellectual property or product of someone else without giving proper credit.” If I suspect that a student has committed academic misconduct in this course, I am obligated by University Rules to report my suspicions to the University of Tennessee Judicial System (UTJS). If UTJS determines that you have violated the University’s Academic Standards of Conduct, the sanctions for the misconduct could include a failing grade in this course and suspension or dismissal from the University. If you have any questions about this policy or what constitutes plagiarism or more broadly academic misconduct, please contact the professor or visit the Dean of Students web page at All policies are also listed in the 2011-2012 edition of Hilltopics.

Reasonable Accommodation Policy: Students with disabilities that have been certified by the Office of Disability Services will be appropriately accommodated, and should inform the instructor as soon as possible of their needs (when possible, documentation should be provided no later than the second week of class). The Office for Disability Services is located at 2227 Dunford Hall; Phone 865-974-6087;; http://

Disclaimer: The information provided in this syllabus constitutes a list of basic class policies. I reserve the right to modify this information when deemed necessary for any reason. You will be notified in class and/or via email if/when any changes occur.