Sample Script and Survey for Tracking Source Diversity

Illustration of dozens of people's faces, arranged as tiles on multicolored backgrounds. On the right hand side of the image, people are more distributed in space, thus more differentiated.


As we discuss in our guide to tracking source diversity, tracking certain demographic characteristics of sources quoted in a publication is one (albeit imperfect) way to build greater awareness about whether and in what respects the publication is moving toward its goals of greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in its reporting. Below is a sample script and demographic questions that reporters can use or adapt when asking sources to provide demographic information as part of a publication’s source-diversity tracking efforts. These materials are adapted from the source-tracking system used at The Open Notebook. (Please see below for links to sources used in development of this source-tracking process.)


Some Key Elements to Note

  • This process requires that sources actively opt in to our source-tracking process; it does not rely on reporters or anyone else making guesses or inferences about people’s identity.
  • By its design, this process assures that sources have given explicit permission for the publication to collect and (securely) store demographic information. (This is important for compliance with some privacy-related laws and regulations, including GDPR, which pertains to sources in the European Union.)
  • The script below includes several key elements:
    • It explains the reason for collecting demographic information about sources
    • It makes clear (twice) that this process is optional
    • It assures sources that information will be stored securely and that individual information will not be shared publicly
  • The survey is brief. There are countless dimensions of diversity that any publication could choose to track; to ensure the process is manageable for reporters and for sources, we recommend limiting questions to no more than five items. (At The Open Notebook, we currently ask sources about geographic location (country); race/ethnicity; gender identity; LGBTQ+ identity; and disability.)
  • Note that for the questions about race/ethnicity and gender identity, the survey enables sources to select all responses that apply to them, and also offers an “other or prefer to self-describe” field to facilitate open-ended responses. Decisions about what response options to provide for these questions are difficult, and in researching best practices (see the list of resources below) we found that experts disagreed on what approach is best. Ultimately we chose the sets of response options that we felt would minimize the need for people to select “other,” while keeping the survey manageable in scope. We acknowledge that our solution is undoubtedly imperfect, and we may further refine it over time.

(For more information and advice about how to find diverse sources for science stories, visit our resource page on that topic.)


Script for Reporters

The script below may be spoken during a call with a source (such as during the fact-checking process) or may be sent in an email that also includes the survey questions below. (At The Open Notebook, after collecting this information, the reporter enters it into a Google Form like this one. In this way, we are able to ensure that information is entered correctly and collect other information that sources may not be able to provide, such as the story headline/slug and the category/department that the story belongs to.)

Thank you for making the time for an interview recently with me for my article at [publication]. We are committed to including diverse sources in our stories so that we can accurately capture the range of people whose voices, perspectives, and expertise are relevant. Toward that end, we try to track information about who our sources are. If you are comfortable doing so, we would appreciate it if you would provide us with some information about the communities you are part of.

This information will be stored securely and will be used only for internal accountability purposes. No individual information that you did not also share as part of an interview will be shared publicly. Again, this is voluntary, but would be helpful to us as we work toward greater equity and inclusion in our coverage.

[If script/survey are being sent by email] This should only take a few moments; please return your responses within one week, if possible.  If I don’t hear from you within a week, I’ll send you one follow-up “nudge.” (If you have previously been interviewed for a story at [publication], you may have been asked to provide this information before. We would appreciate it if you would do so again, as we collect demographic information separately for each story, and because some aspects of people’s identities may shift over time.)


Survey Questions

1. What country do you live in most or all of the time?

2. How would you best describe your race/ethnicity? Select all that apply.

  • American Indian or Alaska Native
  • Asian
  • Black or African American
  • Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish Origin
  • Middle Eastern or North African
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • Other Indigenous/Aboriginal
  • White
  • Prefer not to disclose
  • Other or prefer to self-describe (specify)

3. How would you best describe your current gender identity? Select all that apply.

  • Male
  • Non-Binary or Genderqueer
  • Female
  • Unsure or Questioning
  • Prefer not to disclose
  • Other or prefer to self-describe (specify)

4. Are you a member of the LGBTQ+ community?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Prefer not to disclose
  • Other

5. Do you identify as a person with a disability, or as a person with accessibility needs?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Prefer not to disclose
  • Other

6. Is there anything you would like to clarify or elaborate upon with respect to your responses above, or that you’d like to add about the communities to which you belong?


Resources Used in Creating TON‘s Source-Tracking Process


Last updated May 11, 2022

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