Browse more 5,000 tipsheets from our national conferences and Watchdog Workshops on how to cover specific beats, conduct a great interview and learn countless tips on where to find the information you need.

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  • The Grammar of Graphics: Making Plots in R using ggplot2 Graphing data is one of the core components of data analysis. Visualizing information can help journalists quickly identify trends within a dataset, and a powerful visual can tell a compelling story. In this session, you’ll learn the basics of the ggplot2 package in R (an open-source statistical language), including installing the package and using it for plotting, exploring, and transforming data. You’ll leave with an appreciation for the grammar of graphics and the power of ggplot2 for both exploratory and explanatory purposes.

    Tags: data; graphics; analysis; visualization

    By Sandhya Kambhampati


  • More with R

    Learn more about the free stats program R to quickly do statistics for stories. These links will use New Orleans Census data to showcase simple charting, analysis techniques and other tools in R that can be used on a daily basis by reporters. This is good for: People who attended Getting Started with R or are comfortable working with code and have basic data knowledge.

    Tags: r; analysis; computers; workshop

    By Ryan Menezes, Christine Zhang


  • Getting started with R links

    Add statistical heft to your reporting by using R, a free, powerful open-source programming language. This repo will tackle the basics of R while exploring New Orleans census data. In addition to learning more about IRE's host city, you'll be importing data, installing packages, working with variables, and sorting and organizing your data.

    Tags: r; beginner; intro; data; variables; computers

    By Christine Zhang, Ryan Menezes


  • New tools for political accountability reporting

    From engaging the public with background checks on public officials to programmatically identifying model bills in state legislatures, this session will focus on new tools you can use to bring greater accountability to the political process. The Background Machine is an open-source tool that uses crowd-funding and tips to organize and pay for deep checks on political candidates. The Legislative Influence Detector is a powerful tool using an algorithm to identify similar or identical phrases in legislation, comparing bills introduced throughout the United States. And what’s best, we’re giving away what we’ve developed. With just a list of candidates, you can start using The Background Machine in your newsroom for this election, and by changing just a few lines of AZCIR’s LID python code, you can start finding model legislation introduced in your state.

    Tags: political reporting; backgrounding; checks; public officials

    By Brandon Quester


  • MASTERING THE INVESTIGATIVE INTERVIEW: Questioning the way you take on your targets

    We do them every day, often without thinking. Maybe that’s the problem – even as pros we make basic mistakes in interviews because we are not thinking strategically and tactically. Politicians, businesspeople and PR flacks are experts at jumping on the smallest opening we give them, the tiniest mistake in formulating a question. It’s not just about getting the facts out – it’s about how to dramatically rethink the way you approach interviews, how to master the basic rules of tough interviews, and then learn how to break them when needed.

    Tags: investigation; interview; subjects

    By Julian Sher


  • Advanced data cleaning with OpenRefine

    Sarah Cohen, computer-assisted reporting editor at the NYT, walks you through cleaning data using OpenRefine. Screenshots and step-by-step instructions included.

    Tags: dirty data; cleaning data; openrefine; CAR; regular expressions

    By Sarah Cohen


  • Regular Expressions and OpenRefine

    This tipsheet covers using some of the advanced regular expressions and cleaning techniques available in OpenRefine.

    Tags: openrefine; regular expressions; cleaning

    By Acton Gorton


  • Command line tools for reporters (Unix) repo

    Ever had a CSV file too large to open in Excel? Ever had one so big it crashed your computer? This repo will show you some simple tricks for wrangling data on the command line. If you've never programmed before but frequently use Excel and SQL, this will make your life better. Bonus: We’ll show you how to make your Mac recite poetry for you.

    Tags: csv; data; command; line

    By Agustin Armendariz; Kendall Taggart


  • Policing the Police: Strategies for Covering Criminal Justice Tipsheet

    Police officers and prosecutors are supposed to uphold the law, but sometimes they break it -- and get away with it. Learn how to uncover criminal conduct among law enforcement using data analysis, open records laws and shoe-leather reporting. This tipsheet will go over ways to elevate the coverage of law enforcement and crime by watchdogging those whose job it is to uphold the law. It will focus on who to talk to, what kinds of records to ask for and the issues to highlight.

    Tags: police; law; criminal; investigation; misconduct

    By Cheryl W. Thompson


  • #FOIA blues

    How to use federal and state laws. How to write an open records request the right way. How to appeal and challenge denials. How to keep a steady flow of information and ideas coming into the newsroom by using FOI.

    Tags: open; records; request; denials; challenge

    By Maria Ines Zamudio