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Digital Research

This guide provides an overview of tips, support, and resources available to complete digital research projects at American University.

Types of Digital Research Projects

The scholarly products produced with technology are varied and creative, as they can include any research project that uses digital technology in any stage of its lifecycle. Technologies can be applied in the methodology design, analysis, publication, or preservation of a project. The technologies are always applied to advance a research question and to produce a work of scholarship. As such, remember to focus on your research questions and goals before narrowing in on a given tool or method for the project.

Examples of digital research projects include:

Projects Using Computational Analysis and Digital Methodology

  • Computational analysis – Application and analysis of statistical models to large sets of research data
  • Geospatial research – Digital analysis of geographic, spatial, and temporal data that often, but not always, results in the production of a map that displays that data
  • Social media research – Social media as the subject of academic research
  • Oral Histories – Documents the past through present-day interviews about first-hand knowledge and/or primary source viewpoints
  • Discourse network analysis – Analysis of the cultural practices and norms that emerge within online communities and how these norms shape social interactions and identities
  • Digital ethnography – Analysis of the connections between different digital discourse communities or the spread of particular narratives or ideologies
  • Digital communities – Online social spaces where audiences gather around a common experience, exhibition, or interest. These can be set up as a supplement to a scholarly product to further the reach and experience of the research
  • Text mining and topic modeling – Application of computer programs to analyze large volumes of digital text, including articles, newspapers, and books for communication patterns, common purposes, or related meaning, symbolism, and significance. A quantitative analysis of larger sets of texts instead of close reading of individual texts
  • Data visualization – Graphical representation of data through visual elements like charts, graphs, maps, and, in some cases, interactive elements

Projects Using Digital Publication Options

  • Digital exhibitions and narratives – Interpretations, narratives, or arguments created or written specifically for the Web, often supplementing text with interactive elements or other digital ways of representing data
  • Video, audio, and other multimedia – Projects that engage the audience on research topics and themes through media. Examples include photographic essays, documentaries, and podcasts
  • 3D printing, craft fabrication, and digital production – The design and use of fabrication tools to create physical products that serve either as the subject or product of research
  • Digital collections and archives – Curated collections of digital or digitized primary sources around a research question or topic
  • Interactive databases and trackers – Products that provide functionality for users related to accessing, aggregating, or manipulating digital content
  • Games – Educational, interactive activities that audiences play in order to find evidence, reveal research findings, or achieve other research-related outcomes

This list is adapted from the Journal of American History Digital History Review Guidelines.