The Medal of Honor Project

Screen shot 2013-09-16 at 10.54.22 PM (1)As I enter my third year as an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, I have launched an exciting new undergraduate reporting project. The Medal of Honor Project is a service learning opportunity for journalism students, ranging from freshman to graduate students. Over the upcoming years, students, faculty and staff of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media will be producing print, audio and video content related to the Medal of Honor, its recipients and the 2014 Medal of Honor Convention, which will be held in Knoxville, Tennessee in September.

The project officially launched with our trip to the 2013 convention in Gettysburg, Pa. The trip was an amazing opportunity for the three undergraduate and one graduate journalism student we were able to bring. They had the opportunity to interview numerous Medal of Honor recipients and cover three events, where more than half of the living recipients were in attendance.

It was an amazing weekend.

GWI – Day 5

Goal v. Objectives

  • Goals are more broad. Overarching.
  • Objectives are specific and measurable.

My research

Goal: To understand how the design decisions journalists make, while creating data visualizations, affect individuals’ use and comprehension of the data. 


  1. We will identify the design decisions journalists struggle with while making data visualizations using in-depth interviews.
  2. We will investigate the relationship between journalists’ intention in creating data visualizations and users’ understanding of data visualizations using usability testing.
  3. We will conduct controlled experiments to understand the unique (and interactive) effects of design-related variables on individuals’ use and comprehension of data visualizations.

Grant Writing Institute – Day 4

NSF Guidelines

  • FY2012 success rate – 48,623 submissions; 11,534 accepted; 24% 
  • Two general review criteria of NSF: 1) What is the intellectual merit of proposed activity? 2) What are the broader impact of proposed activity?
  • Intellectual Merit – 1) advance knowledge and understanding in field, 2) qualifications of researcher, 3) creative, original, or potentially transformative concepts, 4) well conceived and organized, and 5) access to necessary resources
  • Broader Impact – 1) *** what may be benefits of research to society****, 2) promote teaching, training, and learning*, 3) broaden the participation of women and underrepresented groups, 4) enhance the infrastructure for research and education, and 5) will results be disseminated broadly to enhance scientific and technological understanding

Grant Writing Institute – Day 3

What is the problem?

  • An important need must be addressed 
  • A gap between where we are now and where we could be
  • Limitation of current knowledge

Problem is also opportunity

  • A fresh idea 
  • A refinement of old ideas
  • A new paradigm

Create clear measurable objectives

  • A goal is a general statement of the project’s overall purpose; whereas, an objective is a specific, measurable outcome or milepost. 
  • There should be 2 to 4 objectives for each goal statement.


  • Most proposals are driven by clear, testable hypotheses 
  • Experimental design must directly test listed hypotheses. If it is going to take multiple steps to test hypothesis, clearly explain each step of the process.


Grant Writing Institute – Day 2

Contacting program officer

  • The published material regarding the grant/grant call is just the tip of the iceberg. It is just the official statement. 
  • NSF divisions create own norms for accepting/rejecting proposals (e.g., preferred methods, preferred focus). The program director will be able to tell you about the norms beyond the official line.
  • Send pre-abstract to all related program officers.
  • Read: Advice for meeting directors at NSF
  • Thank you note should include a summary of the conversation.

Grant Writing Institute – Day 1

For the next five weeks, I will be attending a grant writing workshop being presented by the Office of Research at The University of Tennessee. I hope to find funding for my research on the use and effects of data visualization in journalism. I am thinking about applying to the McCormick Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

NSF Background

  • The largest part of NSF funding goes to unsolicited proposals (or investigator initiated proposals) 
  • Two-types of smaller, quicker NSF grants: High Risk-High Reward (EAGER) proposals (< $300,000 for 2 years) and Rapid Response Research (RAPID) proposals ( < $200,000 for 2 years)
  • Supplements – research assistants – REU (funds undergraduate student for summer) or RET (funds public school teacher for summer)
  • NSF offers 5-year grants which funds full centers. UT received one for a $22 million for an engineering center. Only open to senior faculty.


  • You can use first person writing. You want to convey your excitement and the necessity of the research program. 
  • Must be “elegant sales pitch”
  • Don’t just focus on how research helps discipline, but also how it help society.
Writing Exercise
  1. What are you passionate about? Understanding how the design decisions journalists make while designing data visualizations affect readers’ use and understanding of the data presented.
  2. What is the problem (or need) and why is it important? News organizations are regularly using data visualizations to tell journalistic stories, yet we have little understanding of how individuals process this type of storytelling.
  3. What sources or kinds of data can you use to validate the importance of your proposed project? My research has demonstrated that interactive graphics can result in both political polarization and overcome engrained political misperceptions. My research seeks to understand the processes, which lead to these divergent outcomes.
  4. How is existing knowledge or practice inadequate? Research in the 1980’s examined individuals’ understanding of static graphics (i.e., charts and graphs), but the research has not progressed in to interactive graphics.
  5. Why is your idea better? My idea hopes to build off the earlier research and apply it to the dynamic data visualizations that are used on news organizations’ web pages.
  6. How is it new, unique, different?
  7. What will it contribute and who will benefit from it?

Goal: Rework the above seven questions in to one to two paragraphs. This is my pre-proposal and could be used in e-mail to grant program officer.

 Mentor Questions

  • Networking help 
  • Administrative help
  • Timeline building
  • Reasonable v. unreasonable costs
  • Working with outside organizations
  • How to break into new fields


  • Mentor meeting before May 30
  • Pre-abstract must be submitted before May 23
  • Readings
  • Choose something from Grantseekers’ Toolkit before May 23

The Story of a Season

This graphic is simple little interactive that displays the points (or position) for each team in the premiership across a given season. It goes back to 1993. It seems to have been created by an individual and can be found at:

The interactive is an example of interactive data visualization. It is low on interactivity. The user can only browse between years, flip between position and points display, and mouseover for some additional information. It is in the middle of the scale on narrative. It clearly shows change over time, but the user needs to interpret or create a meaning for the change. The authors do not provide the user with any explicit frame through which to view the data.