• Class Number 5364
  • Term Code 2940
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Merryn McKinnon
    • Dr Merryn McKinnon
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 01/04/2019
  • Class End Date 30/06/2019
  • Census Date 19/04/2019
  • Last Date to Enrol 19/04/2019
SELT Survey Results

This course examines the roles and relationships between science, the media and society. Topics covered include:

  • The style in which science is reported in the media, and how this is influenced by external, contextual factors
  • How to effectively communicate science using the media
  • An in–depth research project on a chosen topic of interest that analyses the coverage and treatment of science in the media and society.

This is a skills-based course, the aim of which is to train students in the production of material suitable for publication or broadcast in the popular media. Students will have opportunities to practice the skills of this course in ‘real life settings’ gaining valuable industry experience and contacts. The major research project is a combination of individual and group work, with the option of submitting the final work to a professional, peer reviewed journal for consideration for publication.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

On satisfying the requirements of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Identify and apply the processes involved in getting an issue into the media
  2. Apply the basics of print media production
  3. Discuss, and where appropriate explain, current issues in journalism
  4. Differentiate the communication needs of various audiences
  5. Evaluate the suitability of topics for different media, and examine and select appropriate background material for a story

Research-Led Teaching

This course encompasses the four main aspects of research-led teaching. There is a focus on research content; the curriculum is structured around the existing body of literature in the field and the core theoretical understandings. Students are encouraged to actively critique and reflect upon the literature in their own analyses of science in the media. This provides students with a sense of the research process and problems as the course examines how the ‘treatment’ of science in the media has changed over time, and how the concept of ‘best practice’ has also evolved. The course also contains a core element of research process, as students are required to undertake their own original research for the majority of the assessment tasks, including for an external organisation.

Required Resources

Students will require access to a computer and the internet to successfully complete this course.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 What is media Related to assessment tasks 1, 2, 3, 4
2 News values & hard news Related to assessment tasks 2, 3, 4
3 Plain English Related to assessment tasks 1, 2, 3, 4
4 Framing Related to assessment tasks 1, 4
5 Communication plans & media releases Related to assessment tasks 1, 3
6 Social media Related to assessment tasks 1, 3
7 Soft news, editing and infographics Related to assessment task 1, 3
8 Tutorial - major assessment tasks Related to assessment task 1
9 Reporting controversies Related to assessment tasks 1, 4
10 Ethics, society and the future

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Major Assessment Task 50 % 13/05/2019 25/07/2019 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Writing assignment 15 % 18/04/2019 01/05/2019 1, 2, 4, 5
Promotion assessment task 25 % 23/05/2019 06/06/2019 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Analysis of material in the media 10 % 08/04/2019 25/07/2019 1, 3, 4, 5

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.



Assessment Task 1

Value: 50 %
Due Date: 13/05/2019
Return of Assessment: 25/07/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Major Assessment Task

Individual or group research on an agreed topic analyzing an aspect of science, the media and public perception. This can be completed individually or in a group. In groups of not more than four, examine an agreed topic individually, combining work and results to form one larger project. If the group wants, this can be developed as a journal article for potential publication. This is voluntary and you will have the opportunity to change your mind about publication. The decision to work individually or in a group must be made before submission of the proposal.

The topic

You may choose any scientific topic that interests you. You could examine the framing of the stories, the sources used, compare the coverage of issues in the mainstream media with what aspects are being discussed in social media (i.e. Twitter) or ‘non-mainstream’ media (i.e. New Matilda, The Conversation) or some variation of these. This can be discussed at length in class and/or as required. Examples are provided on Wattle of published papers that take some of these approaches. There is also further information on Wattle about what I am looking for and what each section should ‘do’ and include.


The writing part

There are two main parts to this assessment task, and the weighting varies dependent upon whether you are submitting as an individual or part of a group. You can change your mind about whether you submit as an individual or not, and if you want to try and get published or not, up until the proposal is due. You can continue to work as a group, without attempting to get published.


***Part 1 – The Proposal. Due 13th May, 2019***

Length – 10 pages (preferably including references) plus ethics proposal for those groups (or individuals but this is not encouraged) wishing to pursue a publication. Ten pages is the UPPER MAXIMUM – if you can do it in fewer pages without large gaps or inconsistencies then this is encouraged…and appreciated!


The proposal should be a literature review of your chosen topic area and the equivalent of a method section in a scientific report. You are expected to give a comprehensive overview of the research that has been conducted in this area and to justify why your chosen ‘angle’ is addressing a gap in the knowledge. You must also justify your methodological decisions.


***Part 2 – The final report. Due 11th July, 2019***

Length – 20 pages (10 from proposal, 10 to write up results, discussion and conclusion) – again, 20 pages includes references (preferably) and is the UPPER MAXIMUM.


You are expected to have collected data or conducted some form of original research for this section of the report. This may consist of a content analysis of a particular media or outlet, public opinion survey, or some combination. Your chosen method should have been justified in your proposal. For those working in GROUPS the expectation is that your report will represent the work of four complete individuals, not of four people who have done a quarter of the work. You are expected to combine your research to form a larger data set. For example an individual conducting a survey on topic X might have a sample size of 50. A group conducting a survey on topic X would be expected to have a sample size of about 200.


There is absolutely no need for an individual report to resemble a sub thesis! Please check the size and scope of your project with Merryn prior to submitting your proposal if you are unsure.

The final report should clearly present your research findings and discuss/interpret your findings based on the literature. You are expected to compare your findings with the relevant available literature and draw implications and recommendations for future research. You are encouraged to “think internationally” in writing your results. You may have chosen an Australian topic, so consider what the relevance of your research may be to an international audience. What elements could apply in their own cultural context? What aspects of your topic could be adopted, adapted or explored in other countries?


Assessment Rubrics

Marking Criteria Part 1

·      Well written, easy to read, minimal jargon

·      Excellent spelling, punctuation, grammar

·      Comprehensive literature review drawing from relevant examples, especially those published in peer-reviewed publications

·      Appropriate, well justified research approach

·      Appropriate, well justified research method


Marking Criteria Part 2

·      Well written, easy to read, minimal jargon

·      Excellent spelling, punctuation, grammar

·      Results are presented clearly and appropriately

·      Tables and graphs, if used, are labelled correctly

·      Discussion is clear and incisive, effectively drawing upon the existing literature to support findings or refute existing state of knowledge

·      Significance of results to the wider media/scientific/academic/science communication field

·      Limitations identified and acknowledged (if appropriate)

·      Recommendations for future research

·      Consistent and accurate referencing throughout paper*


*For those planning to try to get their work published, they are strongly encouraged to identify a potential journal and present their final report according to their chosen journal’s author guidelines which include directions on formatting and which referencing style should be used.


Page limit: Part 1 = 10 pages; Part 2 = 20 pages (which includes part 1)


Part 1

For a group = 10%                 For an individual = 25%

Why is this so different? This proposal section, if done in a group, represents about two and a half pages of writing per person, and then the ethics application (if data collection involves talking to or surveying people) – much of which is a copy and paste of the material from the proposal document itself. For an individual, they are writing all ten pages by themselves, so this represents half of their final report.


Part 2

For a group = 40%                 For an individual = 25%

Groups have a greater weighting for this part as they must consolidate their data and perform analyses on a larger data set. They must also consolidate their findings and interpretation so the final report reads as one ‘voice’. This part of the project represents a much larger investment of their time and effort, so is weighted accordingly.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 18/04/2019
Return of Assessment: 01/05/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 4, 5

Writing assignment

In this assignment you must choose one recent journal article (published within the last 12 months) and turn it into a news story of approximately 250-350 words.

Please also include a 200-300 description of what you did to research and write this story.


Assessment Rubrics

Marking explanation

?   Choosing a suitable topic: Is the paper you have chosen recent and the findings interesting to a general reader? How do you know it is interesting (hint – what makes it news)?

?   Effective explanation: You need to identify the substance of the research and explain the science clearly, presenting it accurately

?   Appropriate style (upside down triangle): This is your opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the news style. You need to include the relevant items (who, what, where, when, why and how)

?   Clear expression and flow: This relates to the readability of your writing, whether you have proofread the work, and whether you have correctly pitched the story to the audience.

?   Attribution: Identifying the journal and/or the researchers (so the reader can track down the source). Any quotes are appropriately attributed to the speaker and/or the source of the quote.

?   Short and catchy pull out: Taken straight from the text of the news article, it ‘grabs’ the reader


Topic choice 1Appropriate style 4Effective explanation of the science 4Attribution 2Clear expression and flow 3Short and catchy pull out 1

Assessment Task 3

Value: 25 %
Due Date: 23/05/2019
Return of Assessment: 06/06/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Promotion assessment task

For this assessment task you will be asked to develop a communication plan and appropriate material to promote National Science Week in the ACT. You can choose to promote National Science Week in its entirety or one particular event. Or, you can choose a different event altogether – please check your event choice with Merryn prior to starting.

***Science Circus students you may wish to use this assessment to prepare a media strategy for a base town or tour when you are in the media team.***

You are allowed to use whatever merchandise and strategies you see fit, so long as you have clearly identified the resources required in your communication plan. You must CLEARLY identify which media channels you are using. Stating ‘newspapers’ as an outlet is not acceptable and you will be marked down accordingly.

What you must include:

·      A brief overview of what you are going to promote (ie a single event or the whole week)

·      The objective of your communication plan

·      Your target audience/s is/are clearly identified

·      A press release

·      A communication plan

·      At least three (3) of the following - brochures, posters, invitations, postcards, websites, sample tweets, sample content for Facebook posts, blog entries etc.

You are judged on content and clarity of the message, not your design or artwork skills. I look at placement of information and font size and how easily read & understood your materials are, and if they fit their purpose in communicating to their intended audience.

What you are NOT expected to include or do:

·      Provide budgets or any form of itemised costs or staffing

·      Develop a website (a mock up of the front page is fine but nothing more!)

·      Produce and edit a video

·      Actually run the event!

If you are unsure about any aspect of this assessment task please check with Merryn.

Assessment Rubrics

Work can be presented in any format you choose (hard copy or electronic or a mixture). Grading will be based on:

·      Evidence of understanding (and application of understanding) of how to develop a communication plan

o  This includes the level of detail required (see notes above)

·      Appropriateness of promotional materials for identified purpose and target audience

o  Your target audience must be reflected in your chosen channels for communication (i.e. media outlets). Are you using appropriate media for your target audience?

·      Clarity of key message and how effectively this is reinforced through materials

·      Quality of press release writing. Aspects considered will be:

o  newsworthiness of release

o  writing style (active voice, inverted pyramid structure, use of quotes, clarity)

o  Correct press release layout


Communication plan 5Key message 3Press release 5Diversity of materials 5Appropriateness of materials 4Campaign effectiveness 3

Assessment Task 4

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 08/04/2019
Return of Assessment: 25/07/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1, 3, 4, 5

Analysis of material in the media

Each week a small number of class participants will present a media item (each) on a scientific topic to the class. It is to be uploaded to Wattle by 5pm on the Monday afternoon. The student who provided the article is then to facilitate a group discussion online. The post/s made during the discussion should be relatively short but should critically review how the science is presented in the media. You are marked on your ability to critically review the article based on the material covered in class, as well as your ability to facilitate and moderate discussion (when it is your ‘turn’).

ALL class members are expected to read the article on Wattle and contribute to the subsequent discussion. You MUST reply to at least ONE article. You do not need to respond to every article posted.

Marking explanation

Grading will be based on:

·      Appropriateness of chosen article (when moderating)

·      Ability to guide and stimulate discussion (when moderating)

·      Ability to synthesise weeklong discussion into a brief ‘recap’ and conclusion (when moderating)

·      Evidence of applying theoretical understanding to ‘real’ article (when reviewing)

·      Clarity of argument with efficiency of word use (i.e. saying what needs to be said, without being verbose)

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission permitted with prior permission from the course convenor. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Returning Assignments

Assignments will be returned within two weeks of submission

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Dr Merryn McKinnon
6125 5951

Research Interests

Dr Merryn McKinnon

Dr Merryn McKinnon
6125 5951

Research Interests

Dr Merryn McKinnon

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions