Pedagogical Anthology

Emily McGinn and Lauren Coats

Digital Texts and Textual Data: A Pedagogical Anthology


Lauren Coats, LSU & Emily McGinn, University of Georgia

“Keep it small.”
— Institute Participant

The following pedagogical artifacts were created by the participants of the 2018-2019 NEH Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities, “Textual Data and Digital Texts in the Undergraduate Classroom.” Hosted by the University of Georgia, Louisiana State University, and Mississippi State University, this year-long institute focused on the humanities classroom as a site for teachers and students to learn DH methods. The classroom brings many people to the table. Recognizing the many ways that teaching and learning take place on college campuses, the institute embraced a broad definition of classroom, from a credit-bearing course to a library-based workshop for teachers or students to a guest-led single class session or other learning experience. In turn, the institute participants included many kinds of teachers: graduate students, librarians, and departmental faculty of all levels from a variety of humanities disciplines.

The institute was structured to give participants the time and space to experiment with and learn new digital approaches and to integrate these approaches into their teaching. Throughout the institute, participants explored methods for digitally examining texts, the primary object of study for many in the humanities. Through a week-long in-person institute in July 2018, and a series of virtual sessions over the 2018-2019 academic year, we learned quantitative, visual, and computational means to analyze texts, approaches that require thinking about texts as digital objects and data. We also addressed issues of how to teach (with) DH. Coupling learning new skills with reflection on pedagogical praxis, the institute focused on participants developing their DH teaching in ways that fit their particular professional, disciplinary, and institutional needs.

The pedagogical artifacts included in this anthology are the result of this institute. Each artifact was developed by a participant to implement at their home institution. These examples represent what we call born-pedagogical DH, aligning DH methods with a classroom’s learning objectives as a way to build new skills and gain new perspectives. These projects show that born-pedagogical DH is small in the best of ways: they represent initial forays into DH that allow novices to experiment and learn without huge investments of time and resources. We hope these artifacts, each of which is shared under a Creative Commons license to encourage reuse and remixing, will encourage others in learning and teaching DH.

How to use this collection

The artifacts are grouped thematically in four sections: digital exhibits and narratives, textual analysis, distant reading and data visualization, and data-driven research. Each artifact begins with an overview that has a uniform header in which the creator summarizes the artifact type, the intended audience, the time required, and the DH method and tool used, and provides a brief description of the artifact. This header was included to help readers browse and find artifacts relevant to their interests. In the overview, readers will also find the list of what items (“supporting materials”) the creators have provided as part of their artifact, which might include a syllabus, rubric, workshop plan, assignment sheet, sample student work, and more.


The institute directors, Lauren Coats and Emily McGinn, would like to thank the participants for a fantastic year of conversation and community. Stephen Cunetto, Associate Dean of University Libraries at Mississippi State University, was a key partner in this endeavor; he and his MSU colleagues ensured that the institute started smoothly when they hosted us on MSU’s campus. We’d also like to thank the guest instructors for generously sharing their expertise (Rachel Sagner Buurma, Brandon Locke, Michelle Moravec, Thomas Padilla, Miriam Posner, Alicia Peaker, Jentery Sayers, and Jesse Stommel). Thanks as well to Leah Powell for her excellent work as graduate assistant for the institute, and to Emma Gist for her meticulous help preparing this anthology for publication.

I. Digital Exhibits & Narratives

About this section: These artifacts focus on using digital exhibits as a way for students to develop an argument in digital space. Each asks their students to develop or choose their items carefully, and to define the threads that hold them together. In so doing the students create rich narratives for experiencing and understanding the exhibit items.

Symbolism in Art & Literature | Corinne Kennedy, Mississippi State University

Place-Based Storytelling with Curatescape | Lindsey Wieck, St. Mary’s University

African American Literature Syllabus | Jewon Woo, Lorain County Community College

II. Textual Analysis

About this section: These assignments are small steps into the potentially complex world of computational means of analyzing texts, such as extracting information about word frequencies or concordances. Great for those instructors or students who are new to text analysis, these artifacts use web-based tools that analyze text without coding and let learners focus on finding patterns and asking new questions of text.A

Visualizing Testimony in Text | Ian Beamish, University of Louisiana-Lafayette

Comparative Textual Analysis Using Juxta Commons | Melinda A. Cro, Kansas State University

Digital/Material Reflection | Sarah Noonan, St. Mary’s College

Reading at Scale: Teaching with Voyant | Taylor Orgeron, Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Introduction to Text Mining and Analysis | Jane Marie Pinzino, Tulane University

Voyant Analysis Essay | Elizabeth Ricketts, University of South Florida

III. Distant Reading & Data Visualization

About this section: These items, like the previous section, introduce students to computationally derived ways to analyze text, whether by providing information about a large set of texts (distant reading) or visualizing patterns in texts. The artifacts gathered here ask students to work through the process of what they can discover about texts using these methods in terms of both evidence and argument.A

Communication Networks in Richard Marsh’s The Beetle | Shalyn Claggett, Mississippi State University

Modeling the Sentimental Novel | Carrie Johnston, Wake Forest University

Nineteenth-Century Slave Narratives: Building a Digital Story Map  | Amy Lewis, St. Norbert College

Distant Reading: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes | Ann McClellan, Plymouth State University

Digital Text Analysis for Students | Javier Sampedro, University of Florida / Loyola University of Maryland

Visualizing What We Learned (A.K.A. The “In My Feelings” Challenge) | Lena Suk, University of Texas-Austin

IV. Data-Driven Research

About this section: These artifacts explore what data and coding means in humanities contexts, asking students to turn their attention to creating humanities data, crafting arguments from it, and considering how to create a sustainable, ethical future for DH work.A

Encoding Feminist Poetry with Processing | Kristin Allukian, University of South Florida

Project Charter for Collaborative Student Digital Projects | Crystal Felima, University of Florida

Collecting and Using Data to Generate a Research Question: Death in the Iliad as a Case Study| Robyn Le Blanc, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Making Caribbean History | Pamela McVay, Ursuline College

Preparing “Letters as Data” | Hillary A. H. Richardson, Mississippi University for Women

Extracting Data: Text from Photos | Emily Una Weirich, University of Arizona


The institute resulted in an open-access publication of pedagogical materials created by the participants. You can access the publication in full, Digital Texts and Textual Data: A Pedagogical Anthology using this link, or on Humanities Commons. Or, you can peruse the materials below. All materials in the collection are published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License; we invite you to read and adapt, reuse and remix.




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Making Sense of Digital Humanities Copyright © 2022 by Emily McGinn and Lauren Coats is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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