Our courses are highly interactive and highly honed.

Story-Based Inquiry Method

Story-Based Inquiry provides a method for investigation based on doctoral level research, a cumulative century of professional practice, and field tests with thousands of students and professionals worldwide.

Story-Based Inquiry provides a method for investigation based on doctoral level research, a cumulative century of professional practice, and field tests with thousands of students and professionals worldwide. The core insight of SBI is that research and writing can be a single coherent process. The investigator begins with a hypothesis, and tests it through procedures that structure an emerging narrative and capture sources and insights in a database.

Since its publication by UNESCO in 2009, SBI has been used by investigative reporters and editors, feature writers, documentary filmmakers, NGO research units, academics and corporates. Its language and approach have been integrated into leading journalism organisations and NGOs around the world. The manual exists in 14 major and minor languages.

Mark Lee Hunter and Luuk Sengers, co-authors and colleagues, have constantly enriched the method and honed their teaching at conferences and leading academic institutions on five continents. Their pedagogical methods combine lectures, project work and interactivity. They have impacted the careers of journalists (from beginners to best-sellers), activists and scholars, as the testimonials show.


1. Start with a hypothesis
Every investigation begins with a question, and a hypothesis is a provisional answer to that question. We show how to formulate it to open up a path into research, and to assess the importance and viability of the idea before investing further. We are proud that our colleagues at the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and others call this approach a “core skill” in contemporary research projects.

2. Nail down the timeline
Timelines are a royal road to the heart of a story, and a way to develop a narrative while researching. We show how to capture events along a timeline, and how to deduce and verify other events that influence the narrative.

3. Map the stakeholders
A source map shows you who is involved in your story - as initiators, witnesses, profiteers and victims. The map allows you to see relationships between all stakeholders and also indicates the target audience for your story, which is essential to increase impact. Not least, it provides an alternative narrative frame.

4. Own the assets
Our research into professional practice shows that organisation is the key to successful projects. Our purpose-built tool is called the master file, which collects and orders sources and insights. The masterfile is also a management tool that provides insight into the status of the investigation and facilitates cooperation between team members.

5. Let the story tell the facts
We never met a researcher who could not find interesting material, but we’ve met many who stumbled when producing the story. We teach how to use narrative structures and literary or cinematographic storytelling techniques. We integrate ethical and emotional issues of writing, including quality control and impact plans.


The course fee includes the lectures, a workbook, two Unesco publications and two Logan/CIJ handbooks that dive deep into the techniques covered in the lectures.

Included in the course is a comprehensive manual.

From webinar participants since June 2020:

“I found the course to be interactive even though it was online. The presentation slides were clear and helped participants keep on track. Questions in the chat were answered in a timely manner.”

“The overall methodology that the two instructors have developed is very clear and it was helpful to have each of four sessions dedicated to going over a different element of the methodology. The additional reading materials are also very helpful to reinforce the content that was presented.”

“I found the presentations and the use of slides well paced and effective.”

“As a student journalist, who wants to specialise in investigative journalism, I learned so much that I would never be taught at university.” 

“I really enjoyed all of it to be honest. From theorizing, to organization, to writing the story, Mark and Luuke gave a lot of helpful tips and tricks that will help me immensely going forward.”

“I love these guys!”

“I like their approach!”

“Pleasant tone, took students seriously, expertly.”

“Just very good, clear and respectful to the participants.”

“I learned a lot from the course and it made me aware of how important it is to get the initial hypothesis and timeline right before pitching the idea to editors.”

“I really enjoyed this course and look forward to making use of the methodology presented in my work.”

“Very helpful advice, with clear examples. I still have to put it into practice, but I have the feeling that this makes very difficult and large projects a lot more feasible and clear.”

“Practical and fits in well with one's own experiences and practice.”

“I particularly enjoyed learning that with this method it becomes a manageable process of a few weeks, rather than a few months or more.”

“The lessons hit the nail on the head. [...] Education doesn't always pay off very well. In this case I was pleasantly surprised.”

“Mark and Luuk, the workshop was fantastic. Thank you for sharing your important work with us!”

“Thank you! My students will be going through this process right now, so thanks again”

“Love it”

“Amazing. Thank you so much!”

From delegates of the CIJ Summers Conferences, 2017-2019:

“Most useful. Very concrete and practical and I feel that most definitely the knowledge obtained [during the classes] will be used.”

“A complete walkthrough on investigative story writing, further reading tips and lots of invaluable info.”