Revising Investigative Articles

Follow these steps and pieces of advice when revising your investigative articles. They will be due December 14th by 5 pm. Please post them to your personal blog, or share via Google docs.


  1. 1.) The lede.  Start with a strong lede, one that gets our attention, as well as focuses us right away on the issue you are investigating.  Check out these pointers on writing powerful ledes.
  2. 2.) Nut graf or grafs.  Here are couple of resources to help jog your memory about what a nut graf should do.  A good nuf graf (or grafs, if the issue is multi-faceted) introduces us to all the reasons why we should care.  

    "Abuse of ADHD drugs has reached epidemic proportions due to a student culture that prides itself on multi-tasking and being over-involved.  However, students do not see the non-prescription use of the drugs as any big deal.' 
  3. 3.) Reportage, reportage, reportage.  There's no getting around it, you must talk to people who have knowledge of the issue you are writing about, and you must use what they say to show the reader how important, complex, and nuanced the issue at hand is.  

    You can do this by balancing the direct quotes with summary and paraphrase.  If your story has vivid "characters" or striking imagery, don't be afraid to observe such details to create atmosphere.  

    'I mean, it's not like it's crack or anything,' Susie Sweetbriar says while simultaneously texting a friend, and drinking a Red Bull. 'We shouldn't be punished for trying to be high achievers.'"
  4. Recall the vivid details Jeanne Marie Laska shares in her GQ article Hecho in America.  Check out this article reflecting on Laska's article.
  5. Quotes vs. Dialogue

  6. Editor Tom Huang writes: "Quotes delay a story, because the reader has to step out of the narrative flow to process what’s being explained. Dialogue keeps the reader in the flow.

    “While quotes provide information or explanation, dialogue thickens the plot,” Roy Peter Clark explains in “Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies For Every Writer.” “The quote may be heard, but dialogue is overheard. The writer who uses dialogue transports us to a place and time where we get to experience the events described in the story.”  This might not apply to your article, but it might be of use, especially if you interviewed someone very colorful and interesting, or found yourself observing a group of people talking or doing something interesting.

  7. 4. Conclusion:  Ending anything is tough, but especially an article that contains several differing view points.  Many investigative writers find it useful to end with a direct quote that sums up the issue without trying to neatly resolve.

    'I mean, it's not like it's crack or anything,' Susie Sweetbriar says while simultaneously texting a friend, and drinking a Red Bull. 'We shouldn't be punished for trying to be high achievers.'"

    Sometimes a story lends itself to ending with an image.

    "We're going to keep fighting," Hippie B. Protestin said, standing against a backdrop of crushed and dilapidated tents in a trash-littered Zucotti Square."
  8. 5.) Media: A picture is worth a thousand words.  A well-placed photo, video, or infographic can help to clarify confusing data or enable readers unfamiliar with the issue to create an image in their minds.
  9. Seattle Police Pepper Spray OWS Protesters