Week 1 (10/2): How to Research

Good ideas make great audio. Photo: Jonathan Powell/CC/Flickr

BY CAZ ADAMS

Welcome to Audio and Video Stories 😃

This semester you’ll complete an assessment with two parts:

Part 1: You will research, write, record, and edit an audio feature or podcast
Part 2: You will research, write, video, and edit a video story

For both there are certain criteria you will have to include in order to achieve a satisfactory result.

As this is Diploma level, you will also have to achieve a standard that is worthy of being played on TAFE Radio or published on Off Campus.

The good news: you only have to do one story at a time!

TAFE media students in the radio studio
#team TAFE in the studio. Photo: Caz Adams

What will I have to do to be marked ‘satisfactory’?

For your internet podcast or audio feature, the subject guide contains all the information you need to know about the unit, and all assessment instructions. In brief, using the multitrack section of Adobe Audition you will need to compile one of the following:

      • A podcast 5 mins in length, suitable for a niche audience of your choice, OR
      • An audio feature 5 mins in length, suitable for one of the following: Radio National, FBi Radio’s All the Best program, or an artist feature for Triple M.

Your podcast or feature should include:

      • A narrative structure (including a clear beginning, middle, and end)
      • At least one interview conducted by you, or a grab from an interview
      • At least three other audio elements, such as music or sound effects (SFX)
Getting started

Whether you choose to do a podcast or a feature, the first thing you need is an idea.

Ideas: sparks fly. Photo: MaxPixel/CC

There are lots of ways to come up with a suitable idea. Here are a few. But be careful – one thing that can really stifle creativity is the desire to have The Most Perfect Idea and The Most Perfect End Product. Nearly every idea – no matter how imperfect it may seem – can be a good one if you use thought, research, planning, compiling, and attention to detail. Plus a little thinking outside the square can lead to a surprising and very interesting end result.

You can start looking for ideas in the passions, interests, or hobbies you have. Ideas might come from a comment you heard, a social media post, a news item, or just a thought that popped into your head.

What is a podcast?

You’ve all heard of podcasts, right? Podcasts come in many different styles, subject matters, and durations.

There are instructional, educational, and informative podcasts, There are opinion pieces – podcasts where a person offers their opinion about a subject, and where they may invite someone else to discuss the issue. A podcast may have a single host or a couple of hosts. They may share the same views or have opposing opinions.

As a general rule, a podcast isn’t as tightly structured as an audio feature, though it should still have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

      • The beginning: some kind of introduction so listeners will know who and what they are about to listen to.
      • The middle: the ‘meat’ of the podcast, where you get into the subject matter.
      • The end: wraps the podcast up. This could include a conclusion to the subject matter, a thank you to guests who have appeared with you, or offering details to listeners if they want to pursue anything you’ve mentioned.
What is an audio feature?

Here’s an example of an audio feature. Listen to the first 4-5 minutes. (It’s a great story, and worth listening to the whole thing, which you can find here.)

An audio feature uses a narrator to tell the story. It starts with music and background SFX. Different voices portray different characters. All this brings the story to life and although we are only hearing it, it paints a visual picture in our minds.

If you have access to the real people involved in your story and they agree to be involved and voice their parts, that’s great. If not, get actors (friends, classmates) to play the parts. If you can do different voices and characters, then you can play a few different roles.

In this example, some swearing is used. Before writing and recording, always make sure the content is suitable for your intended audience. If this story were for a deeply religious group it most likely would not be deemed appropriate and wouldn’t be aired. You can also flag blue language before your story begins to warn your audience – This American Life frequently offers beeped and unbeeped versions of stories that contain swearing.

TASK

Write down 3-5 different subjects that ideas could spring from. Anything will do! Something everyday like ‘coffee’ can inspire lots of great ideas. Now brainstorm thoughts about each subject. Here’s an example:

What is coffee?
Where does it grow?
Is it grown and harvested ethically?
What are the different kinds of coffee beverages? (Latte, espresso, long black, mocha, flat white, cappuccino, etc.)
What is a cappuccino and how did it get its name? (A: From Capuchin monks who wore brown robes and shaved the tops of their heads – the froth on top of the coffee 😉)
Which country has the largest coffee-drinking population?
When did coffee become popular in Australia?
How many disposable coffee cups are thrown away each day in Australia?
Is there a better way for Australia? e.g. a Keep Cup?
Are coffee pods bio-degradable?
Does caffeine really give you a buzz?
Does it keep you awake? (Interview workers)
Is coffee good or bad for your health? (Interview a health professional)
Famous people who love coffee
The rise of coffee outlets and cafes (the cafe society)

From this example you could write a bunch of different stories about coffee:

The history of coffee
How coffee is grown, processed, exported, and consumed
Is our love of coffee damaging the planet and how can this be reversed?
The effects of coffee on our health: Good or bad?
Coffee Culture, the lifestyle (in Australia or around the world)
Does coffee bring people together or tear them apart?
The rise of boutique coffee brands – how can they compete with the majors?
Alternative coffees (soy, almond milk, chai, etc.) – are they better for you?

Now make a similar list of everything you can think of for each of your 3-5 subjects. Research the subject (see how to research an idea below). You will find a lot of things you didn’t already know.

Make a list of different stories you could tell from your subject list. Hopefully you will find one that excites you enough to write it as your podcast or audio feature.

Don’t think your idea has to be earth-shattering at this early stage. Nothing ever is. It will grow and get better and better as you structure it, find an angle, add interview questions, and work out how adding music and SFX will bring it to life.

Have fun with this – once you’ve done it, you’ve started part one of your assessment 🥳

How to research an idea

Hopefully one of the ideas you’ve come up with is inspiring enough to become your podcast or feature story. Or maybe you already had an idea before the brainstorm? Either way, there are a variety of ways to research a story.

You can Google a few words and see where it leads you. You may start with one idea but your search may lead you in a different (and possibly more interesting) direction. If so, go with it!

You can chat to or interview someone and their answers can give you an outline for a solid podcast or story.

Your idea may be something you’re passionate about: e.g. the environment, BLM, music, or a sport or hobby, and you may know groups or organisations that can help enlighten you on the subject.

There may be a newspaper or specialist magazine that has an interesting article and information.

If you wish to do a podcast that is an opinion piece, it will need to have your opinions or the opinions of others supported by facts, events, or quotes. Solid research will make your opinion piece much more compelling to listen to and like. It’s always more interesting too to have two sides to a story.

Use your time now to begin to research a suitable subject. Before you do, please do the following:

Housekeeping

As we are starting online, please follow these steps so you can keep things streamlined and easy to find when your assessment is completed and ready to be uploaded to the Student Drive.

    1. Create a folder. Name it Audio Story/Podcast
    2. Open a Word doc
    3. Name the doc.: Your Name Diploma Audio Feature Podcast Research Notes. This doc must be handed in with Part 1 of the assessment.
    4. Copy and paste any notes you make into this Word doc.
    5. Copy and paste links to websites where you find information you will use in your podcast or feature story
    6. Put your doc into the folder you created in step 1
    7. Create a second folder and name it Your Name Audio/Video Stories Caz. Put your Audio Story/Podcast folder inside it
A LITTLE NOTE ABOUT YOUR STUFF

Please make sure you SAVE all files at the end of every work session. And back ’em up! Whether you choose to email files to yourself or save in the cloud, it’s a good idea to find a way to be able to access them wherever you are 🤓

Author: veritychambers

Journalist and teacher

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