McHugh's research examines how podcasting, a distinctive and rapidly evolving media format, can extend the impact and reach of journalism. She focuses particularly on the aesthetics
of crafted storytelling and narrative news podcasts. Her research is also concerned with the affective power of sound, the production of intimacy and the transformations of voice achieved when oral history and journalism are creatively adapted for an aural format. She is Founding Editor of RadioDoc Review
, an open access journal that brings together scholars, practitioners and industry figures to develop in-depth critical analysis of the audio documentary/feature form, now disseminated as podcast.
McHugh's practice-based Non-Traditional Research Outputs (NTROs), major creative works produced as radio documentaries and podcasts, have had significant impact, including four gold awards at New York Radio Festival. One was for this episode
of Heart of Artness, a podcast outcome of an ARC Discovery project
which uses oral history and aurality to examine Aboriginal art from the transcultural perspectives of its producers. Others were for investigative journalism podcasts co-produced with The Age newsroom in Melbourne, Wrong Skin
(2018) and Phoebe's Fall
(2016). Another innovative practice-based project has been her role as consulting producer on the podcast Gertie's Law,
an initiative of the Supreme Court of Victoria that seeks to make court processes transparent and features unprecedented interviews with top Australian judges about their role.
McHugh teaches and researches podcasting in a variety of settings, including at international gatherings such as the Global Editors Network
, and in collaboration with the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, whose members broadcast to around half the world. Her current research seeks to develop a model to use podcasting as a tool of social inclusion, to develop empathy for and understanding of marginalised voices.