Investigative Journalism Lesson Plan Example for 12th Grade Students

Topic: Investigative Journalism

Objectives & Outcomes

  • Students will be able to identify the key characteristics of investigative journalism and explain the importance of this type of journalism.
  • Students will be able to analyze and evaluate examples of investigative journalism and evaluate their effectiveness.


  • Handout with characteristics of investigative journalism
  • Examples of investigative journalism
  • Handout with evaluation criteria for investigative journalism


  • Ask students to name some famous investigative journalists.
  • Ask students to describe the type of work that investigative journalists do.
  • Write their answers on the board and discuss as a class.

Direct Instruction

  • Introduce the concept of investigative journalism and explain that it is a type of journalism that involves deeply investigating a topic or issue in order to uncover hidden truths or uncover wrongdoing.
  • Discuss some famous investigative journalism cases, such as the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War Crimes expose by Seymour Hersh, and the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal.
  • Have students research the cases and explore the methods used by the investigative journalists to uncover the truth.
  • Discuss the ethical challenges that investigative journalists face when pursuing these stories, such as balancing the public's right to know with the need to protect the identities of sources and not interfere with ongoing investigations.

Guided Practice

  • Have students work in small groups to brainstorm a list of issues or topics that they would like to investigate as a journalistic team.
  • Have each group present their ideas to the class and discuss the potential merits and challenges of each story.
  • As a class, decide on a topic to investigate and create a list of questions that they will need to answer while they are researching.
  • Have students use their notebooks or computers to create a list of initial sources that they can contact for more information on their topic.

Independent Practice

  • Have students work on their research project individually or in small groups.
  • Allow students to use any resources that they would like, including the Internet, books, and interviews with people.
  • Encourage students to use their questioning skills to pursue additional information beyond what their initial sources provide.
  • Allow students a set period of time (e.g. two weeks) to complete their research and create a report on their findings.


  • Have each group present their findings to the class in the form of a short report or presentation.
  • As students present, have them discuss the questions that they asked and the methods that they used to gather their information.
  • Ask students to reflect on what they learned during the lesson and how this relates to their own personal interests and future goals.


  • Observe students during the guided practice and independent practice activities to assess their understanding of the purpose of investigative journalism and their ability to carry out a simple investigation.
  • Evaluate the reports or presentations that students create for completion, organization, and use of information.

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