M.S. Data Specialization

Turn data into compelling stories.

Overview of the Data Specialization

Students in this specialization learn how to use programming languages and data analysis tools to advance their journalism. Students receive rigorous training in data acquisition, data cleaning and analysis and writing and visualizing data‐driven reports. They also learn the fundamental skills required of all journalists.

Previous experience with computation and projects or clips that made use of data analysis or visualization are useful but not required for admission into the concentration.

In order to graduate with a specialization in data journalism, students must apply to the specialization as part of their application for admission to the Journalism School. Students who enroll in the data specialization are not eligible for admission into the Stabile investigative or documentary programs. They have the option, however, of taking investigative, video and other classes.

The Data Specialization Curriculum

In addition to Reporting and other courses that are part of the regular M.S. curriculum, students in the data specialization take a class on writing about data during the fall semester. In the spring semester, they choose from a number of classes that have a data journalism component. During both semesters, they attend a data workshop that covers each step of constructing a data‐driven story, from acquiring, collecting, extracting, cleaning and processing the data to analyzing and visualizing it. Students in the concentration are also expected to produce an original, data‐driven story for their master’s project.

Class Details

Reporting

The data specialization students take a Reporting class that begins with intense digital media training sessions on the basics of data. They learn where data can be found and requested, the forms it can take and how to retrieve and manipulate it. Students continue with seven weeks of reporting in which they go deeper into the methods of assembling data while honing classic reporting skills. Students will learn how to construct a narrative from both quantitative and qualitative sources, how to think critically, how to report under deadline and how to document so that others can replicate and critique their work. 

Written Word

Data specialization students take a seven-week class called Writing about Data. In this class, students produce polished reports that mix qualitative and quantitative observations and analyses and that include "backstory" pieces describing the computation they performed and the basis for the inferences they have drawn in the story.

Data Workshop

In a series of hands-on classes throughout the school year, students in this workshop learn how to acquire or collect data, evaluate data quality, clean and transform data, do data analysis and visual analytics. They learn various programming languages and tools for data extraction, cleaning and analysis. They also learn about reporting, writing and visualizing data-driven stories. 

Data Master's Project 

Data specialization students produce an ambitious work of data-driven journalism as their Master's Project. These projects can be part story and part algorithm or data visualization, data API or some other computational object. Full-time students begin work on the Master's Project during the fall semester and continue through the spring term. Part-time students do their Master's Project during the summer of their second term.

Classes

In addition to the required classes, students in the Data specialization choose from the many spring options that are open to all students. 

Please note: The classes listed here represent recent offerings at the Journalism School. Choices vary each semester depending on faculty availability and other considerations. Classes described now may change or be dropped to make room for new additions. 

Covering Campaign Finance

Data I

Data II

Data Specialization Workshop

Data Visualization

International Newsroom: How to Cover Armies and Spies

Journalistic Computing

M.A. Essentials

M.A. Evidence and Inference

Tactical Technology for Reporting

Using Data to Investigate Across Borders

Student Work

Five students collaborated with journalists around the world, mining information and stories on shipping-related topics.

Read about their work.
Lydia Namubiru '16 M.S. Data

Lydia Namubiru '16 M.S. Data will return to Uganda and mentor others to teach and improve their data journalism skills.

Read more about Lydia.

Faculty

Mark Hansen

Director, David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation & Professor of Journalism 

Susan McGregor

Assistant Professor & Assistant Director, Tow Center for Digital Journalism