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Mendive. Revista de Educación

versión On-line ISSN 1815-7696

Rev. Mendive vol.22 no.1 Pinar del Río ene.-mar. 2024  Epub 30-Mar-2024


Original article

Journalistic research competence: a proposal from socio-education and critical reflection

0000-0002-9343-7492Meilys Cruz Fernández1  *  , 0000-0002-2933-2485Jorge García Batán1 

1Universidad de Camagüey. Camagüey, Cuba.


Journalistic investigation constitutes a competence inherent to the work of the journalist, so its adequate training is essential for the ideal performance of the press professional. Even though some authors have addressed this competence, theoretical-methodological gaps and gaps persist that limit their training; Consequently, the objective of this article is to describe the conceptual structure of journalistic research competence from the socio-formative approach and critical reflection on various theoretical positions, for a conception in accordance with the characteristics and demands of the professional training of the Graduate in Journalism. depending on the particularities of the context. The study used the analysis-synthesis, induction-deduction and systemic-structural-functional methods, as well as consultation with key informants, critical reflection and collective construction workshops, bibliographic review, document analysis and survey. The main result consists of the conception of competence as a synthesis of contextualized knowledge for the investigation of social reality from the reflective analysis of the context, critical thinking and ethical and comprehensive professional performance.

Key words: Competition; journalistic investigation; journalism; socioformation; critical reflection


The expansion of the journalist's performance scenarios in the context of media convergence and the demand for greater versatility and adaptability have determined reforms in university training that emphasize the pedagogical approach to competencies (García Galera et al., 2021).

Even though the transformations imply the reduction of study time, new profiles and content that express the relationships between journalism and technological development, the basic principles for journalistic work remain and require adequate treatment from the professional's training, such as case of journalistic investigation.

Academic programs in the international arena and authors such as Rosales Vicente, B., Garcés Corra and Rosales Vicente, EJ (2018) and Rebaza Lázaro (2021) recognize journalistic investigation as a professional competence, synthesis of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values of the journalist, which is expressed in a comprehensive performance during the investigation of social reality, based on the ethics of the profession. For its part, the Journalism in Cuba study plan in force since 2017, proposes journalistic and infocommunicative research as a mode of action in the new media and extramedia context, although it does not define it.

Regarding research as the essence of the journalist's professional work, its definition and characteristics as a competence or professional mode of action, scientific production is insufficient, somewhat diffuse and with greater emphasis on the modality of investigative journalism.

The gaps in science regarding journalistic investigation, according to the context where the journalist carries out his work, limit its adequate treatment in the professional training of the Graduate in Journalism which, consequently, generates insufficiencies in the performance of future professionals. in the investigation of social reality. This is demonstrated by a study carried out during the 2022 academic year in the Journalism program at the University of Camagüey "Ignacio Agramonte Loynaz", whose objective was to diagnose the initial state of the formation of journalistic research competence.

Among the results are difficulties in the management of investigative methods, techniques, procedures and strategies, deficiencies in the presentation of research results and a limited use of techniques and tools for monitoring the news after its publication. Furthermore, there was a tendency to define journalistic investigation only as an expression of investigative journalism; and the application of social research methodology in addressing reality phenomena, as well as professional ideologies without adequate contextualization and systematization of experiences.

The interest in improving the teaching of journalism and the modes of professional action in line with the most advanced assumptions of the Educational Sciences has motivated the Cuban model of training journalists to promote the generation of inter- and transdisciplinary teaching practices. and investigations that allow the articulation of competencies and actions in response to the demands of work and social environments. In this sense, it is considered appropriate to approach journalistic investigation from the competency approach.

According to Tobón (2013), competencies refer to suitability, ethics, attitudes, values, knowledge and skills for the performance of specific situations, as well as knowing how to be, knowing how to know and knowing how to do, expressed in a unitary relationship.

Regarding investigation as a journalist's competence, various positions can be seen. The Model Curriculum for Journalism published by UNESCO in 2007, for example, identifies: investigative techniques, gathering information promptly using information-gathering techniques and common investigative methods and investigative skills; while, Lerma Noriega (2018) mentions professional research techniques.

Although in general these denominations seek to oppose the fragmentation of knowledge, they fail to reflect the particularities of Cuban journalism, as well as the demands of the context for the professional training of journalists. Therefore, the objective is to describe conceptually and structurally the journalistic research competence from socio-education (Tobón, 2013) and critical reflection on various theoretical positions on the subject, for a conception in accordance with the characteristics and demands of the Bachelor's training. in Journalism.

Materials and methods

The study was carried out with a predominantly qualitative approach. As theoretical level methods, analysis-synthesis and induction-deduction were used to understand different perspectives on journalistic investigation for its description as a competence.

The structural-functional systemic method, consultation with key informants and workshops for critical reflection and collective construction that included the participation of students, professors of the basic and basic disciplines specific to the Theory of Journalism, and journalists who work as teachers and/or or tutors of work practices in the Journalism career at the University of Camagüey "Ignacio Agramonte Loynaz", allowed the conception and explanation of the journalistic research competence based on the assumptions of the socio-formative approach.

Four professionals with recognized track record and experience in Journalism and/or in teaching the specialty were consulted as key informants, including two doctors and two master's degrees in Communication Sciences, two full professors, one assistant professor and an assistant professor; as well as a directive from a provincial-level media outlet that constitutes the teaching unit of the career.

The analysis of documents such as the Model Study Plan for Journalism proposed by UNESCO in 2007 and the study plan E of the degree in Cuba, in addition to the bibliographic review around the skills and research as the essence of the professional activity of the journalist, made it possible to determine the state of the art of the matter in question. Meanwhile, the surveys of 25 students of 2nd and 3rd years, and the same number of professors of the Journalism career during the 2022 academic year, provided considerations about the qualities that should distinguish the journalist for the investigation of the social reality that, in synthesis, they express the systematization of experiences regarding the topic.


Based on the systematization of the theoretical assumptions and criteria presented, the conceptual and structural description of journalistic research is proposed based on the socio-formative approach to competencies. Accordingly, journalistic research competence is assumed as a category inherent to journalism in all its facets and form of expression that, in turn, stands out for its contextualized, open, flexible and comprehensive nature of knowledge based on the theoretical-methodological background of the Social Sciences.

Identification of the competition under analysis

It investigates social reality for its construction through the production of info-communicative content in the global, national and local system of press media, as well as extra-media organizations, with critical and reflective thinking, ensuring informative rigor based on the ethics of journalism.

Context problems

How to investigate the social reality for the production of infocommunicative content in the global, national and local system of press media, as well as extramedia organizations, with critical and reflective thinking ensuring informative rigor?

What criteria should be taken into account when designing a journalistic investigation project?

How to apply journalism research techniques, methods and procedures in different media and extra-media contexts ?

How to select, manage, contrast and establish relationships with information sources?

What ethical principles should journalists follow when investigating social reality?

How to articulate in professional practice the knowledge available to the student to carry out journalistic research?

How to systematize the professional practices of journalism for the investigation of social reality?

How to work collaboratively in a journalistic investigation?

How to present the results of journalistic investigation according to the demands of each genre and media or extramedia context ?

How to evaluate the impact of journalistic investigation?

Process axes

To determine the subprocesses that emerge from the competence under study, defined as process axes, the results of the bibliographic search, the theoretical systematization carried out and the criteria of students, experts and specialists were taken into account. This is how they were established: design of journalistic investigation, deployment of journalistic investigation and socialization/evaluation of the results of journalistic investigation.

The procedural axis of journalistic research design involves the integration of the theoretical and methodological knowledge necessary for the design and planning of journalistic research, after the identification and classification of the phenomena of social reality based on values or qualities of the news, as a result of reflective analysis and interpretation of the context. It guarantees the comprehensive conception of the investigation based on the outline of its essential elements, as well as the determination of the fundamental resources required for the execution of the investigative actions.

This axis lays the foundations for the journalist's investigation of social reality by providing the structure and organization of the investigative process on which the remaining procedural axes depend. It is distinguished by its leading role, although it is flexible and open to possible corrections in accordance with the demands of the investigative process.

Deployment of journalistic investigation includes the execution of the actions planned for the development of the investigation. It involves the implementation of the procedures, methods and techniques of journalistic investigation of social reality to obtain basic and current data and information related to facts, phenomena or events of collective interest; the comparison, verification and verification of sources and information; the examination, analysis, selection, ranking and balance of data, in accordance with the premises and objectives of the research; and the reflective assessment of the information obtained. It demands from the journalist an attitude open to unforeseen events and multiple possibilities of manifestation of the phenomena of social reality, which could require the adaptation of the initial investigative project and the strategy for communicating the results. It may require the application of teamwork skills.

Likewise, it is projected from the research design and may require modifications both for itself and for the remaining axes in accordance with the orientation, limits, possibilities and demands of the practice and depending on the achievement of the stated objectives.

Meanwhile, the procedural axis, socialization/evaluation of the results of the journalistic investigation, initially involves the implementation of the strategy for the communication of the results. It demands mastery of the genres and languages of journalism, of the media and extra-media codes for the socialization of results, and of the technologies for the processing and dissemination of information. In a second moment, it requires monitoring the news and measuring its impact or repercussion, with the aim of obtaining feedback and determining the continuity or closure of the investigative process.

This axis depends on the others. It involves the deployment of communicative skills; At the same time, it can promote corrections to the design and deployment of journalistic investigation as well as the reflective assessment of its relevance, effectiveness and results for the improvement and/or continuity of the investigation process according to the objectives.

The relationships of interdependence and complementarity established between the procedural axes are illustrated below (Figure 1):

Fig. 1 Process axes of journalistic research competence and their relationships 

Performance criteria

In the description of the performance criteria, the ten minimum processes involved in a competence were considered, in accordance with the socio-formative theory described by Tobón (2010, cited by Tobón 2013): awareness; conceptualization; Problem resolution; values and ethical life project; collaboration with others; assertive communication; creativity, customization and innovation; transversality; resource management; and metacognitive assessment.

Below are the performance criteria for each of the procedural axes of the competition:

  1. Design of journalistic investigation

    1. It is motivated by the reflective analysis of social reality, adopting critical thinking in the interpretation of the phenomena of events.

    2. Classifies the phenomena of social reality according to their relevance, significance and public utility, with a transdisciplinary approach and according to the values or qualities of the news.

    3. Establishes premises, objectives or investigative and communicative purposes related to the topic of public interest to be investigated.

    4. Plan a journalistic investigation project in accordance with a certain topic of public interest or utility, in accordance with the editorial line and information policy of the media outlet where you work.

    5. Determines the investigation methods and techniques in correspondence with the state of the topic to be investigated, demonstrating knowledge and skills about the methods and techniques for journalistic investigation.

    6. Traces a methodology for research, demonstrating coherence in its decisions about how to obtain data and information on social reality with the use of journalistic research methods and techniques.

    7. Determines the material, human, financial resources and approximate time necessary for journalistic investigation, demonstrating knowledge that guarantees the sustainability of the project.

    8. Proposes a communication strategy to publicize the results of journalistic research, taking into account the possibilities offered by multimediality and transmediality.

    9. Develop a work plan or agenda that allows you to organize research activities, save time and effort and guarantee greater performance.

    10. Manages the necessary sources of information in accordance with the objectives of the research, ensuring their reliability, relevance and pertinence.

  2. Deployment of journalistic investigation

    1. Access the sources of information necessary to obtain truthful, transparent and timely information within the framework of legality, with critical thinking, respect and ethical commitment to the objectivity of the information, demonstrating to widely satisfy the requirements of each matter.

    2. Ask questions and understand answers while maintaining assertive communication.

    3. Addresses difficulties proactively and strategically by making timely adaptations to the initial research project according to its orientation, its limits, possibilities and demands of practice.

    4. Interacts with the public in diverse ways, both in person and with the help of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), with ethics, professional responsibility and respect for people's privacy and intimacy.

    5. Reflectively assesses the quality of the information obtained, applying technological techniques and tools for verification, contextualization and contrasting of the information.

    6. Use, depending on the circumstances, the different technological tools that can serve as allies for the journalist in investigative work.

    7. Carry out collaborative research activities as a team, through the use of different communication channels, based on certain goals.

    8. Make a final balance of the data obtained through the examination, selection and ranking of the information, according to the premises and objectives of the investigation.

    9. Prepare the final version of the communication strategy for the presentation of the results in accordance with the requirements of the media for publication.

  3. Socialization/Evaluation of the results of journalistic investigation

    1. Prepares journalistic works with an innovative attitude in the production of content, using different forms of expression, in compliance with the rules of writing and style of journalistic genres and those determined by the media responsible for publishing the results of the research. .

    2. Communicate the results of the investigation with truthfulness, precision, objectivity, clarity, coherence and immediacy, and timely express its criteria without violating the limits provided for in the Constitution and the laws and with respect for the constitutional rights of other people.

    3. Anticipate the possible impact of the research.

    4. Controls the effects or results achieved or promoted by the communicative actions as a whole, through the use of technological techniques and tools to monitor the news.

    5. Obtains feedback through different means of communication about the published research, through co- workers or recipients of the communicative product.

    6. Offers relevant information or opinions derived from the impact of the investigation, expressly and objectively through some journalistic work that closes the process.

Evidence of the formation of journalistic investigation competence

As evidence to evaluate the formation of journalistic research competence, the following can be considered: journalistic works carried out in classes, as part of evaluations of specific basic subjects or integrative exercises of several subjects; journalistic products and student reports carried out during work practices and study culmination exercises, especially those related to research for communicative production and professional portfolios.

Mastery levels

In line with the particularities of the professional training process of the Graduate in Journalism in Cuba, the Receptive , Resolutive and Autonomous levels of mastery or performance of the journalistic research competence are proposed, given that the student enters the career after a selection process based on the evaluation of entry competencies that place it at a Preformal level and must move from the reception of basic information to identify problems, basically through notions, towards argumentation and problem solving with one's own criteria, effectiveness and efficiency.

It is considered that the Strategic level, also proposed by the socio-training taxonomy, should not constitute the object of the training process of the competence, even if some student can reach it, since it corresponds to a stage of professionalization that depends on performances to be acquired in the exercise of the profession.


In the context of the Cuban university, the training of professionals is understood as the social process that, in a conscious, organized and planned way, is developed in educational institutions and work entities in close connection, in a dynamic that integrates teaching with labor, research and extension (Alonso Betancourt et al., 2020); and takes shape in a solid scientific-technical, humanistic training with high ideological, political, ethical and aesthetic values, based on the advances of science, technology and art, in order to train revolutionary, cultured citizens and professionals. , competent, independent and creative so that they can perform successfully in the different sectors of the economy and society in general.

Horruitiner Silva (2011) expresses the integrative vision of this process structured in three dimensions of profound dialectical interrelation: the instructive, the developmental and the educational, as it is oriented towards the preparation of the subject in knowledge, skills and values for successful professional performance. , based on the guiding ideas of the unity between education and instruction and the linking of study with work.

Socio-training, for its part, is an educational approach created in Latin America, based on complex thinking as a method of knowledge construction. Its purpose is to transform education by training citizens with a solid ethical life project, collaborative work, entrepreneurship, knowledge management, complex thinking and metacognition (Tobón, 2017). As a pedagogical model, it recognizes the importance of conceiving human formation, in a general sense, from the integration of the social and contextual dynamics that operate on the subject with the personal dynamics for the construction of capabilities, knowledge, attitudes and values (Tobón, 2013).

The concordance of the socio-formative approach with the principles of higher education in Cuba regarding the training of professionals means that its assumptions regarding competencies transcend for a conception of journalistic investigation in tune with the context, taking into account, furthermore, the professional training of journalists as the combination of historically established practices and theories with new knowledge that responds to the evolution of the so-called Information and Knowledge Society.

competence is assumed as a comprehensive performance "(…) to identify, interpret, argue and solve problems of the context, developing and applying different knowledge in an articulated manner (knowing how to be, knowing how to live together, knowing how to do and knowing how to know), with suitability, continuous improvement and ethics" (Tobón, 2013, p. 93).

Thus, competencies can be classified as: basic, those fundamental for life; generic, common to various occupations and professions; and specific, typical of an occupation or profession (Tobón, 2013). It is suggested to approach them in an open and flexible way from transdisciplinarity, since their construction is an unfinished process and in continuous improvement.

According to the socio-formation methodology (Tobón, 2013; Tobón, 2017), to address the competencies the following must be established: contextual problems (unresolved needs in the context; lack of knowledge about a phenomenon; contradiction between two or more approaches, theories or methodologies; need to improve something; challenge to create and/or innovate, etc.); criteria (specific performances or results that guide both the training and the evaluation of competencies); evidence (concrete tests to analyze the criteria and determine the process of competence formation); and levels of mastery or performance (different degrees or phases of development of skills). Likewise, it proposes the optional inclusion of procedural axes, understood as areas or dimensions of competence that help organize the criteria.

For the conception of journalistic research competence in correspondence with the particularities of the context, the knowledge that guarantees an ideal professional performance of the journalist in the investigation of social reality must be specified, namely knowledge about the basic principles of journalism, skills, attitudes and essential values. In this sense, the bibliographic review allowed us to contrast various theoretical assumptions that provide an integrative perspective on the matter.

Rosales Vicente, B., Garcés Corra and Rosales Vicente, EJ (2018) consider journalistic research as a specific competence associated with the key function of production and distribution of infocommunicative content in the global, national and local press media system, as well as as extramedia organizations.

Although current information is the essential objective of journalistic investigation, social reality constitutes its object. In this regard, Romero (2006, cited by Delgadillo Grajeda and Arellano Ceballos, 2021) expresses the need to investigate reality to reflect on events, know their structure and be able to contextualize them.

Sendín Gutiérrez (2015, cited by Escobar and Jaramillo, 2021) highlights the relationship of research with critical thinking and skills of understanding, analysis, synthesis and evaluation of material in the professional practice of the journalist, given his role in the search for information. and the discernment of the truth.

The links between scientific and journalistic research are revealed in generic investigative competence. By the way, Buendía, Zambrano and Insuasty (2018, cited by Hernández Sánchez et al., 2021) identify different types of investigative competencies (all manifest in the journalist's professional practice): to ask, observational, reflective, propositional, technological, interpersonal, cognitive, procedural, analytical and communicative.

Journalistic investigation is part of coverage or reporting as an act or succession of acts to search, find, interpret and transmit a current event of interest due to certain values or qualities; It can take place in a physical or virtual setting and requires searching and consulting all available and unavailable sources, discrimination of data, reorientation of the investigation if necessary and verification of each and every one of the elements.

Rebaza Lázaro (2021) relates journalistic investigation in the first instance to the exercise of investigative journalism, even though it highlights their differences, among other aspects, in the origin of the sources, the time dedicated to the investigative process and its impact on society. This author exposes the following features of competence: the ability to outline a research method; know, explore and adapt, depending on the circumstances, the different technological tools that can serve as allies for the journalist in investigative work; identify and adapt the ideal journalistic techniques to develop the work in progress (observation, data collection, comparison of sources, verification of information, among others); and have the ability to present the final product that encompasses all the research.

For journalistic investigation as an expression of investigative journalism, Rodríguez (2007) and Cardoso Milanés (2008) propose phases or stages of work that can be applied to general journalistic practice: the conception of a project or prior plan in which the main research sources and techniques to be used, as well as the human, material and financial resources and approximate time necessary; the development of the research, which involves the search for sources of information and the development on the fly of the possible communication strategy for the journalistic presentation of the results; the balance of the data, to confirm the validity of the information obtained and rethink the project according to its orientation, limits, possibilities or other aspects; the final preparation of the investigation through the use of different journalistic genres, for its eventual publication; and the control and evaluation of the effects achieved or promoted by the communicative actions as a whole.

Beyond the classic distinction between journalism or investigative reporter, the journalist must be considered a researcher who coincides with the social scientist by rationally evaluating the information obtained from the endless flow of reality based on a systematic process; and seeks to test a hypothesis that generates new knowledge in a given period, overcoming the risks of superficiality, while contributing to social transformation and democracy from the investigation and contextualization of the facts.

UNESCO Model Curriculum of Journalism published in 2007, among the ethical and professional standards refers to the competence research capacity , which implies: the ability to understand, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate unknown material quickly; news appraisal and a thoughtful understanding of what constitutes good news and what makes a story newsworthy; the ability to ask questions and understand answers in national and local languages; observation skills; the ability to quickly and effectively collect, understand and select information related to a story through interviews, published sources and the Internet, and the use of research techniques; ability to take notes accurately; techniques to verify and corroborate information; as well as arithmetic ability and a basic knowledge of statistical methods and surveys and studies.

In turn, the Annex to the Tartu Declaration sets out among the objectives related to the competence to collect information promptly using common information-gathering techniques and research methods: having good general knowledge and understanding of society and, in particular, economic, political and sociocultural issues; know all necessary sources, including personal ones, reference books, databases, news agencies and the Internet; know how to use your sources and your own observation efficiently and effectively; have the will and ability to have their information balanced by using methods such as verification and double verification and systematically rebalancing the news; and have the willingness and ability to interact with the public in diverse ways, both in person and with the help of (new) media.

Other studies base some of the exposed elements as competencies, in correspondence with new professional profiles resulting from the transformations of the sector.Schena, Besalú and Singla Casellas (2018), for example, state: recover, analyze and process information to disseminate it; use data and statistics correctly; search and manage information in a digital environment; capacity for objective analysis of reality and extraction of valid considerations and capacity for analysis, synthesis and critical judgment. Know how to relate causes and effects.

Meanwhile, Herrero Diz et al. (2022) propose competencies related to content verification to strengthen the classic learning of Journalism such as the search for the truth, verification of sources and the processing of information, as well as identifying misleading information, contrasting or denying misinformation, providing the truth and encourage critical thinking in a context marked by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and fakes news.

In accordance with the principles that govern journalism, the influence of professional culture and ideologies must be considered in the relationship established between the journalist and the investigation of the news event, depending on the context.

In particular, values predispose journalists to use knowledge and know-how and demonstrate them in the performance of their professional attitude. According to the tradition of the Cuban press, good journalism, synonymous with rigorous investigation, defends dignity, humanism, honesty, cooperation, the sense of belonging, identity, commitment to the truth, respect for diversity and social, political, ethical and intellectual responsibility.

The consultation with key informants and the exchanges through workshops of critical reflection and collective construction with experts, specialists and students about the journalistic research competence provided considerations of estimable value about aspects such as the links between journalistic investigation and social research, if It was insisted that their differences must be determined and universal terms adapted to Communication Sciences, specifically to the field of study of Journalism, to gain precision and clarity according to their use in the context.

Likewise, the respect that must exist from journalistic investigation to the constitutional rights of people, entities, organisms and organizations, as well as the right to state secrecy when appropriate, was emphasized; how innovation associated with the management, production and distribution of content, and relationships with audiences, affects journalistic research; in the changes that have been generated in the media and extramedia environment ; in the use of technological tools for data processing, content verification and analysis of fake news, in addition to artificial intelligence; in the relationship between journalistic investigation and the editorial agenda of the media outlet where the journalist works, given the decisive role of the media in the conception, planning and execution of the investigation; and in the purpose of the competition itself, also oriented to the analysis and construction of social reality in addition to the production and distribution of infocommunicative content , both in the global, national and local system of press media, as well as in extramedia organizations.

The main qualities for journalistic investigation, according to the professors surveyed, are: ethics, revolutionary commitment, observation, courage and the ability to analyze. The students also recognized interest in events, objectivity, being in contact with various sources of information, instruction on the topic to be investigated, and exhaustiveness in the investigation.

In accordance with the objective of the work, it is concluded that the socio-formative pedagogical model and critical reflection on different theoretical positions allow the conceptual and structural description of journalistic research competence from a contextualized and integrative perspective, which favors its training in correspondence with the particularities of the environment where the journalist works.

As a significant contribution of both approaches, the synthesis of knowledge stands out from the collective construction of knowledge for the solution of professional problems, with attention to the culture and ideologies inherent to journalism, as well as new practices related to journalistic investigation that emerge from the impact of ICT. Likewise, the reflective analysis of the context, critical thinking and values such as ethics, aspects that transversalize the axes or subprocesses of the competence, become essential conditions for an ideal performance in the investigation of social reality.

The systematization of experiences, implicit in the conception of journalistic research competence, reveals the imprint of the theory-practice relationship, while the appropriation of the methodology of social research through procedures legitimized in praxis is highlighted.

Given the flexible nature of the competency construction process, this constitutes an approach to the topic open to improvements and proposals that contribute to its improvement.

Referencias bibliográficas

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Received: August 30, 2023; Accepted: December 05, 2023

*Autor para correspondencia. E-mail:

Los autores declaran no tener conflictos de intereses.

Los autores participaron en el diseño y redacción del artículo, en la búsqueda y análisis de la información contenida en la bibliografía consultada.

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