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Digital Humanities

What is Digital Humanities?

The Digital Humanities is an emerging discipline that applies computation to research in the humanities. More than simply conducting research with computers, Digital Humanities scholars utilize all of the emerging tools facilitated by computation to conduct their analysis of the various materials throughout the humanities disciplines.  It is a suite of resources, a community, a research methodology, cutting edge tools, and more.  Check out the Bibliography on the Resources page to learn more.  

digital humanities word cloud

Selected Research Methods in Digital Humanities

Text Analysis

Many Digital Humanities scholars employ methods of textual analysis over vast corpora of text documents. Much of this analysis consists of counting word occurrences in an analytic method called Topic Modeling. This method works by identifying relationships between concepts by counting words that occur near each other and words that appear with frequency. By applying such analytic methods researchers can further explore the concepts that arise.

The prep work necessary for this analysis is called text encoding. Referring to marking up digital text in a machine readable and universally shareable manner, text encoding lends itself to many scholarly activities such as publishing, searching, and text analysis. The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) is a consortium of developers who maintain guidelines for the representation of texts in digital form and provide schemas for reference. Marking up a text in TEI ensures that your documents are machine readable and potentially shareable to the greater research community.

The Scholarly Commons has three high resolution scanners and Optical Character Recognition Software (ABBYY FineReader) to convert PDFs as well as text documents into searchable materials. These documents can then become data sets that can be used for computation and research.

Tools in Scholarly Commons: ATLAS.ti, NVivo, Oxygen, ABBYY Fine Reader, digital scanners

Example Projects: "The ARTFL Project," "TEI-Analytics and the MONK Project"

Spatial Humanities

The "spatial humanities" utilizes Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) in order to create interactive maps to assist in better understanding the concept of "space" in relation to humanistic research. Answers to questions such as "How does space influence events?" or "What has this space meant in history?" can potentially be represented with GIS software. For more on spatial data services at the Scholarly Commons, see the Data Services Page.

Tools in the Scholarly Commons: ArcGIS, GRASS, GoogleEarth

Example Projects: "General Lee's View of Gettysburg," "Auschwitz Under Construction," "Mapping the Salem Witch Trials"


Generating visualizations is a way to "see" your data. An example of this could be a network analysis. This generally refers to the study of the structure of relationships between multiple entities. For example, a researcher may generate a network of concepts embodied in words and track the ways in which certain concepts relate to each other, influence one another, or even predict one another. A researcher might also perform a cluster analysis to determine which words often occur near each other.

Tools in Scholarly Commons: ATLAS.ti, NVivo, R

Example Project: "Visualizing Topic Models"

Digital Humanities Project Workflow

Planning your research project in advance can help you keep track of your goals and organize your research. A plan will allow you to tackle the various aspects of your project methodically so that each part of your project can be completed in a timely manner. Proper planning will ensure that each part of the project will be completed in the correct order so that there will be no lag time between processes. It is also important to know what you plan to do with the data you generate. This could include plants to archive it, share it, etc.

Before getting started, it may be beneficial to talk to a librarian. Harriet Green, the English and Digital Humanities Librarian, can help you with project planning. She can also help you with tools and other resources.

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