The basic plan for investigative reporting often is a series of four lists of things you need to do, along with an initial schedule. The lists will change — and often grow — and the schedule may change, but you need to start with a plan to keep yourself organized.

Research: List the documents and databases you need. Often, these will include annual reports, budgets, audits or regulatory reports. The more documents you include, the better. The documents will give you context and point you to human sources.

Interviews: The experts, advocates, officials, residents, witnesses or victims you need to talk with.

Places: List where you will go to observe, take notes and photos, record sound or video and talk to people who are there. Will you need someone to go with you? Do you need to provide advance notice or get approvals for your visit? Include this in your plan.

Presentations: The graphics, photos, videos and audio you will need for the presentation of the story. You must start planning how you will present your story before you start reporting. You might have only one chance to talk with a source or visit a place, so you will need to be prepared to get video, photos or audio on your first encounter.

Taken from Introduction to Investigative Reporting, a self-directed course by Brant Houston at Poynter NewsU.

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