UCL Modules on Tech Journalism

BENG0026: Tech Journalism: Analysis and Communication in Engineering and Technology
(Intermediate level)

BENG0027: Advanced Tech Journalism: Advanced Analysis and Communication in Engineering and Technology
(Advanced level)

BENG0053: 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, or 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 three sets of skills: the ability to research developments and trends in science, engineering, and technology; to analyse these in a systematic way; and to communicate the results persuasively to a given 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.

In 2020, almost 80% of the students who took these tech journalism modules completed the student evaluation questionnaire and every single one said they would recommend them to another student.

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 research and development projects and trends
    • Book reviews
    • Basic technical case studies (intermediate)
    • Technical analyses (advanced)
    • Comparative technology literature reviews (M-level and postgraduate)
  • Edit the work of others for both content and style.

Method of Instruction

In the Spring term of 2021, these modules will consist of weekly flipped lectures and online activities, group interactive sessions, and individual tutorials. Ideas for the coursework will be discussed and developed with the instructor, and students also have the opportunity to get detailed formative feedback from the instructor as long as it’s submitted within agreed deadlines.

Assessment

All modules are entirely assessed via coursework, which will consist of the following three components:

Portfolio: Students at all levels are asked to write a portfolio of 2400-2700 words worth of articles for magazines and online publications. This is worth 40% of the final grade for intermediate, 35% for advanced, and 30% for M-level and postgraduate students.

Technical Case Study/Analysis: All students participate in developing a technical case study or analysis, comparing potential solutions for a particular scientific or engineering problem. Intermediate students will write 1500 words (worth 30% of the final grade), advanced students will write 2500 words (worth 35%), and M-level and postgraduate students will write 3000 words (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 (this can be online), interview a scientist (again, this can be online), visit a lab (this requirement may be waived depending on the public health situation and the location and circumstances of the student) and read a set number of technical papers. In addition, 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. Students are expected to provide feedback for at least 150% of the number of words that they are expected to submit themselves. For all students, the editing work and research activities are worth 30% of the final grade.