Data Journalism Final Project

Final project options and requirements

You final project needs to be a substantial project involving:

  • original reporting
  • data acquisition by:
    • public records request
    • or scraping government website
  • data cleaning
  • story telling by:
    • writing a longform (5,000+ word) story with simple graphics
    • building a complex searchable database
    • building a complex interactive “dashboard”
    • building a complex “narrative infographic’
    • building another kind of interface, e.g. Alexa skill, game, command line utility, etc.

The specific requirements surrounding each can be found below.

Pre-Approved projects

The following projects have already been scoped to be sure that they are: achievable during the semester, have a “minimum” story that’s worth telling, involve all the required elements.

You can propose your own if you hate these.

1. Feel the burn

Request data and create infographic or dashboard about use of the university’s health/fitness facilities.

You’ll need to make an open records request for the card swipes into the UI Rec Service’s Recreation/Wellness Center, Tennis Complex, Field House and Fitness East facilities. There will no doubt be a variety of alleged privacy issues to negotiate.

2. Yuck factor

The state of Iowa’s health inspection data portal lacks a lot of basic information, for example “score” given by health inspectors. Those data are being collected.

You’ll make an open records request for the full and complete data, after reporting out what data can be found. Then, working with food safety experts and advocates, you’ll write a story and/or create useful tool for consumers.

3. Pay to play

When NCAA teams from power conferences (Power Five football, high major basketball) play teams from weaker conferences they literally pay them. (There are may also be complex financial relationships when power conference teams play each other.)

The result is that teams like Iowa play weaker, out-of-conference opponents they’re effectively paying the team they hope will be an easy win. (That certainly is no guarantee of a win.)

Request Iowa, Iowa State and UNI’s contracts for current and future games in the three revenue sports (football, women’s basketball, men’s basketball) then use it to build and analyze a database.

4. Coach pay equity

There are a variety of issues in the inequality of pay in college coaching staffs – often confounded by the differences in revenues attached to major sporting programs.

But if we take football out of the equation, there are a few good ways to tackle the issue.

You can analyze:

  • pay for coaches and assistants in non-revenue sports
  • pay male and female coaches and assistants in a single sport (e.g. women’s basketball )

You’ll need to request NCAA coaching pay data via one or more universities subject to open records requirements. Alternately, you could pick a single sport and make public records requests for individual contracts.

5. Political piggybank

Gather and analyze data to identify the top institutional and individual backers of Iowa political campaigns. This could lead to a story or an interactive database.

6. Hunting accidents

Request the database of hunting accidents/incidents from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The would lead to a story.

7. State Public Defender

The state public defender’s office gathers data on the cases handled by its own attorney’s and by court-appointed private attorneys. That includes things like wins and losses, use of legal investigators, hours spent and more.

8. Underground storage tanks


9. Dam safety

10. Levees

11. Dangerous chemical storage and release

12. Water quality

13. Wetlands

14. Use of force reports: Education

Request data on all abuse investigations submitted to the state board of education and choose several school systems to request those not submitted to the state.

15. ACE reports

Why use Rate My Professors when you can build your own version? Request the complete archive of ACE responses for UI faculty and create a website with it.