UCL Modules on Tech Journalism

ENGF0006: Tech Journalism: Analysis and Communication in Engineering and Technology
(Intermediate level)

ENGF0007: Advanced Tech Journalism: Advanced Analysis and Communication in Engineering and Technology
(Advanced level)

ENGF0011: Specialist Tech Journalism: Advanced Analysis and Communication in Engineering and Technology
(M-Level Undergraduate and Postgraduate)

Overview for Students

These modules are aimed at physical scientists and engineers who intend to have careers in consultancy, technical management, government, and communication/journalism as well as anyone who wishes to pursue a research career. They will help students to craft effective reports, papers, and grant proposals as well as articles for newspapers, magazines, and websites.

We focus on giving you two sets of skills: the ability to analyze developments and trends in science, engineering, and technology; and to communicate these persuasively to a particular audience.

Specifically, you will learn how exploit diverse sources of technical information far beyond the technical literature. As part of this you will have the opportunity to do interviews, attend conferences, and go on laboratory visits. Then, you will be taught how to consider emerging technologies in the context of potential applications using a methodical, step-by-step process.

On the writing side, you will learn about different kinds of article structure and audience and many techniques for writing well and clearly. You will also learn the invaluable skill of being able to constructively criticize, analyze, and edit the work of others: identifying holes in technical arguments, pointing out jargon, and noting poor structure.

Finally, you will get formative feedback throughout the module to help you get the highest grade possible.

Prerequisites: There are no formal prerequisites, but students should have a strong interest and some training in the physical sciences or engineering and a reasonable level of writing competence.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module students should – in combination with the technical skills they learn in other parts of their course – be able to:

  • Research and analyze scientific/technical developments based on their potential impact in solving specific problems
  • Use that analysis to write:
    • News and feature articles about a single piece of research or developmen
    • News and feature articles about trends in R&D
    • Book reviews
    • Interviews
    • Conference reports
    • Basic technical case studies (intermediate)
    • Technical analyses (advanced)
    • Comparative technology literature reviews (postgraduate)
  • Edit the work of others for both content and style.

Method of Instruction

The course consists of 16 x 2h sessions (one hour of lecture, the other group work or workshop) over the Spring term, each preceded by assignments, reading, flipped lectures, and other homework that will be discussed in class. Ideas for the coursework are discussed in class, and students also have the opportunity to get formative feedback from the instructor on all work as long as it’s submitted within agreed deadlines.

Assessment

All modules are entirely assessed via coursework, which will consist of four main components:

Portfolio: Students at all levels are asked to write a portfolio of 3000-3300 words worth of articles for magazines and online publications. This is worth 60% of the final grade for intermediate students, 50% for advanced and postgraduate students.

Editing each other’s work: All students will be expected to edit each other’s work on a regular basis, and to share their feedback with both the author and the instructor. These edits will be assessed on a pass/fail basis. Students are expected to provide feedback for at least 150% of the number of words that they are expected to submit themselves. This is worth 10% of the final grade.

Technical Case Study: All students participate in developing a technical analysis. Intermediate students will work in groups of 3-4 to do the research for a 2000-word technical case study, and then write a 500-700-word section of the final report (worth 30% of the final grade). Advanced students will write an entire case study themselves (worth 40%). Postgraduate students will write an expanded, 3000-word case study report written as a review paper (worth 40%).

Activities: To supplement the research for their portfolio and technical analysis, students are expected to read a book for review, attend a conference, visit a lab, interview a scientist, and read at least seven technical papers. These activities are not graded, but there will be a penalty if not enough are completed.