Last month, University of Houston Libraries held the first Digital Scholarship Institute (DSI), hosted in the Digital Research Commons (DRC). Six participants comprising faculty, graduate/doctoral students, and undergraduates were selected to take part in the five-day intensive boot camp focusing on practical issues in digital research.
The DSI was funded through the Libraries’ microgrant program, which fosters new ideas in support of the Libraries’ Strategic Plan and the University’s goals. Facilitated by UH librarians, the DSI offered attendees the opportunity to plan their own digital scholarship projects through workshops, tailored consultations, and access to software. Topics included project management, finding data, data visualization, and open scholarly publishing.
“I had been hesitant to take a research project to the next level before conferring with digital humanities specialists on how to achieve the optimal form of data visualization,” said Richard Armstrong, PhD, associate professor in Modern and Classical Languages. “The possibilities and the professional standards concerning more complex forms of visualization were unknown to me, and I found it too daunting to just strike out on my own. The Institute provided a friendly, collegial atmosphere that helped me to think about the next phase of my research, and I was able to learn enough to commit more fully to heading in this direction. I was grateful for it, as it fell at a very good time in my own research development.”
PhD candidate in History Ela Miljkovic’s DSI project focused on text mining, specifically, compiling archival material, collected over the course of two years while researching for a dissertation in Mexico City and archives in the US, into a corpus. Transcriptions of the documents, including newspaper articles, policy documents and scientific reports, will be used in topic modeling and sentiment, in order to analyze a large volume of text and extract the mood or sentiment from each individual text.
“I came to the DSI with only a general knowledge of digital humanities, but with a deep appreciation for the ways it can enrich qualitative research,” Miljkovic said. “The DSI forced me to deconstruct my source base, thinking about each text beyond the content it provides, and ask more meaningful questions of my sources. I quickly came to realize that conducting a digital humanities project requires a very high level of organization, so a large portion of my time was spent working and reworking my dataset to reflect the questions I was asking, which, of course, evolved throughout the Institute.”
The Digital Research Commons is a physical and intellectual hub for digital research at the University of Houston, offering workshops, lectures, and guidance on digital projects in a flexible and well-equipped space. DRC specialists work with faculty and students on research projects large and small, from the earliest stages of formulating a research question, and choosing and finding materials, to publication in whichever format is most suitable. Contact the DRC