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Digital Humanities: DH Pedagogy@Collins

Recommended Readings

DH-inflected Assignments @ Collins Library

Although Digital Humanities is often associated with large, multi-year, grant-funded projects, much smaller DH-inflected projects may be more appropriate for many undergraduate courses.  For the past several years, librarians at Collins Library have collaborated with faculty and educational technologists to design research assignments that incorporate digital methods and practices. Librarians also have advised individual students who wish to apply digital methods to an assigned research project.

Examples of specific types of assignments librarians have supported are listed below.  If you are a faculty member thinking about creating a DH assignment or are a student who wishes to pursue a DH project, we recommend the following best practices:

  • During the planning stages, please talk to both the librarian and the educational technologist to gain the full advantage of our expertise.  In some cases, the librarian and educational technologist can work together to plan and deliver an integrated lesson.  In other cases, you may end up needing to work more closely with either the librarian or the educational technologist.  By starting the conversation with both us, however, you're likely to not overlook key elements.
  • It can be helpful to reverse engineer the desired learning outcome.  What are the discrete skills needed to be successful in the project?  Do students have these skills or do they need to be taught?  How much time is needed to develop each skill?

Examples of Specific Projects:


Collins librarians either designed or collaborated in the design of the following lessons, assignments, or projects.

  • Concept Mapping in Multidisciplinary or Interdisciplinary Research

    Research Question:  How do different disciplines approach a specific topic?
    Digital Tools:  online, open-source or free concept mapping tool like Bubbl.us, Slatebox, Text2Mind, or Popplet.
    Library Resources:  Print and digital subject encyclopedias, books, and subject databases
    Learning Outcomes:  Provides practice with the visualization of information; helps students narrow down research topics


  • Material Culture and Literary Texts

    Research Question: How does evidence of material culture (in this case, clothing) extend, enhance or contradict depictions of gender in literary texts?
    Digital Tools:  ARTstor; specifically--curating a group folder
    Library Resources:  ARTstor, print and digital subject encyclopedias, books, and subject databases for secondary and tertiary sources
    Learning Outcomes:  Provides opportunity to practice the critical thinking skills involved in both visual and textual analysis and in curation decisions

  • Cultural Shifts and Language Change

    Research Question: How and when do cultural shifts get reflected in language change?
    Digital Tools:  Google Books Ngram Viewer, with a focus on a specific corpus (such as the 19th century, or only American sources)
    Library Resources:  The Oxford English Dictionary
    Learning Outcomes:  Determine the advantages and disadvantages of working with "Big Data" versus traditional reference materials.  When are both needed, in what circumstances is one better than the other?  What does evidence of language change add to our interpretation of texts?


  • Transmedia Navigation of a "Hot Topic"

    Research Question: How do social media, mainstream media, and government entities interact in covering and commenting on a "hot topic," such as the "sharia law in the U.S." or the killing of Travyon Martin?
    Digital Tools:  Timeline and/or concept mapping tools (depending whether the goal is to explore cause-and-effect scenarios or to investigate overlapping versus diverging interests)
    Library Resources:  Subscription databases for mainstream and alternative media; plus information literacy instruction in searching the open and the deep web.
    Learning Outcomes:  Provides practice with tracing and analyzing 21st-century communication trends

  • Creation of an Anthology, Collection or Playlist

    Research Question: What types of intellectual decisions must we make when curating a collection?  What are the social and cultural implications of these decisions?
    Digital Tools:
    • For text-based collections:  the group library functions in either Zotero or RefWorks
    • For image-based collections:  the group folders function in ARTstor
    • For music-based collections:  Naxos folders
    • For multimedia curations:  VoiceThread; Animoto; Museum Box; Prezi
    • For materials not yet available digitally:  scanning or recording equipment
    Library Resources:  The specific resources used will vary by subject but are likely to include the vast array of primary, secondary, and tertiary sources available in or through Collins Library--whether archival, print, or digital.
    Learning Outcomes:  Curation is a complex task that requires critical thinking skills about purpose and design; ethical and legal questions about copyright and use; and social and cultural questions about power and identity.

  • The Format/Content Debate

    Research Question: What happens when manuscript material is transferred to print and digital formats?  What happens when print formats are transferred to digital?  What happens when a born-digital material becomes available in print?  What are the historical, cultural, philosophical, and ethical concerns?  How does format influence or affect meaning and interpretation?
    Digital Tools:  Access to digital collections, whether subscription (via Collins Library) or available on the open web
    Library Resources:  Manuscript and/or print specimens; especially those available in Archives and Special Collections
    Learning Outcomes:  Work with materials in their original formats helps contextualize historical experience; comparison of facsimiles promotes critical thinking about social and cultural values
  • Timelines as Tools for Contextualization

    Research Question: What else was happening in the world while this literary or artistic work was created or a scientific discovery or invention was made?  How does historical context enrich our understanding?  How do we decide what information to include on a timeline?
    Digital Tools:  Timeline creation programs, such as TimeGlider or TimeToast
    Library Resources:  The full scope of the library's print and digital collections.
    Learning Outcomes:  Contextualization projects enrich understanding of the text or object being examined while also providing students with the opportunity to practice basic research skills, including the evaluation of information sources.