Teaching Digital Humanties: Digital methods elective: Ph.D. Coursework Subject

I have started teaching a PhD coursework subject at the University of Melbourne, the first year that this type of guided professional development has been offered in PhD research. Our contribution is the first Digital Humanities subject in the faculty; it is a lot of fun to design and teach but somewhat experimental. There are five of us leading the topic (and about twenty PhD students). The instructors have many years of teaching, research, and computing experience and ways of applying computing to teaching and research problems. We have compiled our syllabus from many sources, and thanks to the University of Victoria in Canada and especially Brett Hirsch of UWA for blazing a path for us. It is only a five-week course of two-hour sessions, so we barely get our feet wet in such a large and vibrant field.

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Course Outline:

This subject alerts students to the range of electronic methods available to scholars for document and data capture, collaboration and communication, data analysis, publishing and dissemination, data structure and enhancement, practice-led research, and research strategy and project management. On completion, students will be equipped with a range of practical digital methods as they apply to their thesis (e.g. qualitative analysis of unstructured text using NVivo, use of digital archives and databases, semiotic analysis of text, metadata for describing research material), and also be able to critically assess the potential of digital methods and tools as they apply more broadly to their discipline.

Session One: Introduction and Basic Tools


What is Humanities Computing?
What is Humanities Computing, and What is Not?
NINES – an example of digital methods
The Sound of Many Hands Clapping: Teaching the Digital Humanities through Virtual Research Environments (VREs)

Please take a look at these examples…

Digital Humanities at Oxford (in particular, look at the ICT Methods)
Arts-Humanities.Net (have a look at methods, tools and projects)
An excellent overview of many aspects of DH is A Companion to Digital Humanities, ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004.

Also very useful is …

Berry, David M.
Understanding Digital Humanities [electronic resource]
Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012

Basic Tools:

  • Referencing – Zotero, Endnote etc.
  • Searching Catalogues
  • Managing your literature
  • Word Processing a thesis
  • Mind Mapping
  • Coding qualitative data – word processing, NVivo
  • Express Scribe – a tool to assist with the transcription of digital audio

Library classes and tours
Library online tutorials
Library – RefWorks
Library – tools widgets and apps

Session Two: Modelling and representing knowledge in the humanities: Why do we do it?


  1. Ramsay, Stephen. Databases.A Companion to Digital Humanities. Ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 177-97.
  2. McCarty, Willard. Modelling: A Study in Words and Meanings. A Companion to Digital Humanities. Ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 254-70
  3. Lavoie, Brian, and Lorcan Dempsey. Thirteen Ways of Looking at Digital Preservation. D-Lib Magazine 10.7-8 (2004)

Why digital methods?

Overview – why do we need to understand digital methods? Aren’t we all digital natives?

    • fragility of digital records
    • potential of reusing research data
    • potential of linking between existing and future data
    • What databases are appropriate for PhD research, and why would you need one?
    • Why do we model knowledge in the humanities?
  • What is an API, and what are the debates around open data?
  • (Practical exercise: make a database and enter some research fieldwork into it), Excel? or a free online service?
  • Backing up your data for safekeeping
  • Open Access databases as a means for disseminating research
  • Repositories and persistent identification of research material

creating data so that it can be reused

  • implications
  • open source
  • structured
  • filenames have some system
  • repositories understand discipline-specific issues
  • PARADISEC as an example of a discipline-based digital repository
  • OpenOffice or LibreOffice?
Many tutorials on the web, e.g.,

Session Three: Text Encoding, mark-up and meta-data


  1. Renear, Allen H. Text Encoding. A Companion to Digital Humanities. Ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 218-39.
  2. Sperberg-McQueen, C. M. Text in the Electronic Age: Textual Study and Text Encoding with Examples from Medieval Texts.Literary and Linguistic Computing 6 (1991): 34-46
  1. Tooling Up for Digital Humanities: http://toolingup.stanford.edu/


Voyant tools

  • Introduce XML editors (OxYGEN)
  • TEI. Why do we use it in the humanities?
  • Metadata: What is it, and why is it essential for the outputs of digital research?
  • Tutorial on using regular expressions to search and change text (http://zvon.org/comp/r/tut-Regexp.html)


A great site with lots of guidance on text encoding, including a stepped approach to XML and more complex methods, is The Brown University Women Writers Project

If you are into the whole XML and encoding enterprise, you can try to mark up a text in XML TEI using one of the web-based virtual environments.

Session Four: Scholarly Communication and collaborative and interdisciplinary research and crowd-sourcing


  1. Fitzpatrick, Kathleen.”Peer-to_Peer Review and the Future of Scholarly Authority’ Cinema Journal 48.2 (2009): 124-29 .fitzpatrick.pdf
  2. Krause, Steven D. Where Do I List This on My CV? Considering the Values of Self-Published Web Sites. Kairos 12.1 (2007)
  3. Boyd, Danah. A Blogger’s Blog: Exploring the Definition of a Medium.Reconstruction 6.4 (2006):

Virtual environments, crowd-sourcing, managing interdisciplinary relationships

  1. Norcia, Megan A. Out of the Ivory Tower Endlessly Rocking: Collaborating across Disciplines and Professions to Promote Student Learning in the Digital Archive. Pedagogy 8.1 (2008): 91-114.
  2. Dan Cohen Can History be OpenSource: Wikipedia and the future of the past http://chnm.gmu.edu/essays-on-history-new-media/essays/?essayid=42
  3. Rockwell, Geoffrey Crowdsourcing the Humanities: Social Research and Collaboration, in Collaborative Research in the Digital Humanities (Marilyn Deegan and Willard McCarty eds.) (Craig will hand this last essay out in class)


  • Why Blog? (WordPress and Twitter and building your scholarly networks)
  • What is the blogosphere
  • What is OpenPublishing


  • Why is the blogosphere important for my research? Will it get me a job?
  • Write a blog post and optimise it using a set of online strategies

Session Five: Tools and critical methods for analysing source materials


  1. Burrows, John. Textual Analysis. A Companion to Digital Humanities. Ed. Susan Schreibman, Ray Siemens, and John Unsworth. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004. 323-47 (John Burrows is one of the most influential Australian contributions to computing in the humanities)
  2. Rockwell, Geoffrey. “What is text analysis Literary and Linguistic Computing 18.2 (2003): 209-19
  3. Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History, 2005 (this book is an excellent reflective analysis of quantitative methods and visualisation in book and literary history)

Reading on CAQDAS (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis)

  1. Marshall, H (2002) Horses For Courses: Facilitating Postgraduate Research StudentsChoice of CAQDAS Contemporary Nurse 13/1 pp29-37
  2. The CAQDAS networking project
  3. Richards L Handling Qualitative Data, (2nd Ed Sage, London, 2009) Lyn Richards website resources for her book
  4. Lewins, A. and Silver, C. Using Software in Qualitative Research: A step-by-step guide (Sage London 2007)


Voyeur tools, Old Bailey Online, Founders and Survivors (quantitative and qualitative approaches to using computing in humanities research).


Sage publishers
RMIT’s Qualitative Interest Group meets on the first Tuesday of each month. Contactlyn.richards@rmit.edu.au for details
Association for Qualitative Research

Session Six: Wrap-up session: the ethical and legal implications of computing and technology in research

  1. (Reading) Lesk, Michael. “From Data to Wisdom: Humanities Research and Online Content Academic Commons. 16 Dec. 2007 lesk-commons.pdf
  2. (Practical exercise) How to make your digital research available under a Creative Commons License?http://creativecommons.org/choose/
  3. (Practical exercise) How to deposit data into a repository and set ethical access rights



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