Tips & Techniques

Research | Interviewing | Fact-checking

Information gathering through interviews and research forms the basis of effective communications. When embarking on a writing or editing project, start by doing your homework. Gather background information. Interview people in the know. Confirm facts, quotes and sources. When you’ve finished a draft of your piece, check for accuracy.


Find Mizzou facts and background information by visiting appropriate websites and checking printed publications. Searches for topics such as academic units, people, news and history can be found in several locations.

A to Z information about Mizzou


Buildings and their backgrounds

  • Campus Map provides locations of MU buildings, roads and facilities, as well as mailing addresses, driving directions and parking information.
  • MU in Brick and Mortar lists campus buildings and tells their history.

History of Mizzou

  • MU Archives, through the MU Libraries, links to the past as the depository of the University of Missouri’s official papers, records and manuscripts.
  • MU history and traditions
  • Digitized Savitar, the electronic collection of MU yearbooks, provides information on past students and activities. Older printed issues are on file at the Office of Publications and Alumni Communication.
  • MIZZOU, MU’s alumni publication, offers historical information from issues dating back more than a century. Printed issues are on file at the Publications office.

News and events of Mizzou

Print issues of MIZZOU and Illumination are on file at the Publications office.

Academic unit news
Several schools, colleges and departments publish news online and in departmental newsletters. Examples:

News of Columbia and MU

People: Students, factulty and staff

  • MU Directory provides names of and contact information for students, faculty and staff. Search by student name for year of study and academic affiliation; search by faculty or staff name for job title and academic affiliation.

University of Missouri System
MU is one of the four-campus UM System. Learn more at the UM System website.


How to have a successful interview

  • Know your audience and how to reach those readers.
  • Do your background research before setting up the interview.
  • Prepare a list of questions.
  • Record the interview for accuracy.
  • Cover basic information by asking who, what, when, where and why questions.
  • Encourage detailed response by asking open-ended questions such as, Tell me about…
  • Look for ways a project or research can improve lives.
  • When interviewing researchers about complex scientific subjects, ask for analogies to explain the concepts.
  • Listen for unusual expressions as potential direct quotes.
  • Request names of colleagues or peers who could add information about the subject.
  • Check for student involvement, especially undergraduate researchers.
  • Be sure to ask students about their year in school, major and if they are comfortable disclosing their hometown.
  • Ask alumni about their graduation years, degrees and hometowns.
  • Finish the questions by asking interviewees if they would like to add anything.
  • Contact your Mizzou News representative if the story has broad appeal for a media release.

Need more tips? Check the University Bookstore for reporting textbooks by Missouri School of Journalism professors.
Need advice? Contact Marketing & Communications.

Fact checking

Accuracy matters. Use these steps as a guide to checking facts in your external communications.

Accuracy checks
Provide written drafts of your editorial content to interviewees and other sources — or read relevant passages aloud to them. Ask them to review the content for factual errors.

Editing questions
Contact editors in University Affairs for assistance with editing, including questions about MU style, AP style, grammar, punctuation and word usage.

Names and titles
Check the spellings of the names of students, faculty and staff through the MU Directory. The directory lists the year in school and academic affiliation of each student, as well as the job titles and academic affiliations of faculty and staff.

Look for details in all proper names and titles. MU business students, for example, study at the Trulaske College of Business, not the business school; the arts and sciences are taught in the College of Arts and Science (note the singular use of science); and the theater department’s proper name is the Department of Theatre. Check names of academic units through links to schools and colleges, departments, units, and divisions.

Spelling and grammar rules
Run a spell check and a grammar check. Sure, your computer can work wonders as you compose, but take the time when you’ve finished to use the helpful spelling and grammar tools. Also, keep a grammar book or online reference tool at hand to review common errors such as misuse of which and that, misplaced modifiers, run-on sentences, incorrect use of commas in a series and missing commas in a compound sentence.

Style rules
Use style rules set by the MU Style Guide and Associated Press Stylebook, which are the standard guides for external communications.

Times, dates, locations
Verify times, dates and locations of university events and activities through the MU Events Calendar. Follow the AP style guidelines for listing the time, date and place of an event. Example: 8 a.m. Monday, Feb. 11, 1839, on Francis Quadrangle.