This graduate-level class provides an introduction to the concepts and methodologies of using digital tools for dataset creation, curation and analysis, to answer research questions based on historical primary source documents.   The syllabus includes coverage of underlying ethical and legal considerations in working with primary source material, and best practices in text mining methodologies, building digital maps and timelines, and for presenting research results on an online platform.

Class Learning Objectives

  • Learn the basic vocabulary of concepts and tools in digital humanities and become acquainted with a range of projects, best practices and resources in the field.
  • Engage with open source digital tools or methods useful to broad humanities disciplines, and to make informed choices about tools best suited to answer or visualize research questions.
  • Develop an understanding of the nature of algorithms underpinning digital tools, and to evaluate the level of bias they bring to any analysis. To develop an understanding of the role the scholar plays in interpreting qualitative analysis.
  • Explore the value and purpose of primary sources in developing an active practice towards digital literacy and citizenry, and to develop an understanding of the use cases for archives, their attributes and their uses within digital humanities.
  • Understand the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of digital media, including copyright, ownership, licensing, and use of proprietary content or software.
  • Examine how the source and its transfer to digital impact the reliability and validity of content in digital format.
  • Develop an awareness of the components of a sustainable, engaging and well-documented DH project.
Digital Tools

We used a range of digital tools in class for gathering, preparing and analyzing data:

Gale Digital Scholar Lab
Google My Maps
Esri Storymaps
Programming Historian tutorials
Vader sentiment analysis


The instructor, Dr. Sarah Ketchley, would like to acknowledge with gratitude the support offered by the Digital Scholarship librarians at University of Washington Libraries who offered synchronous training in Omeka and ongoing troubleshooting during this class. Thanks especially to Verletta Kern who has long been an advocate for offering institutionally-supported digital tools and platforms for classroom and research use.

Header photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash  

Thanks to Charis, our fantastic class TA whose behind-the-scenes work kept things running smoothly through the quarter. 

And, last but not least, a big hat tip to Helene Williams, Teaching Professor in the UW iSchool and Professor Selim Kuru, Chair of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, for a decade's worth of conversations and encouragement.
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