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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.

Step 1: Conceptualize and Plan

Digital research projects require extensive planning and there are many considerations to consider when you’re first thinking about the project. Digital research projects are best planned when you have the end in mind, such as: What are your research questions? What do you want your project to look like? What information should it share? What impact would you like it to have? Planning also includes the practical: Who is in charge of this project and who will maintain it moving forward? What will that maintenance look like and what will it need?

Remember that digital research, like any research, is first about engaging critically with and offering interpretation of scholarly arguments your field. Your research will inform any methods or tools, not the other way around.

Tasks to Complete During this Step

  • Determine your audience(s) and how they will benefit from this project.
  • Take into account the criteria by which your department evaluates digital research for promotion before designing your project.
  • Look at digital research projects by others in your field to see patterns and gaps in the research.
  • Make decisions about which digital method, medium, or tool you will use and why it suits your research questions and aims.
  • Review the accepted standards, methods, and best practices of using the medium you have chosen before you begin working on the project.
  • Define in detail the scope and desired outcomes of the project.
  • Create a timeline for the project, including beginning, milestone, and completion dates.
  • Develop a budget, including long-term costs of upkeep, and identify how any needed funding will be required.
  • Consider the required stages and tasks needed to complete the project.
  • Identify all individuals, groups, and organizations who will contribute to the project.
  • Assign clear roles and responsibilities to each responsible party for each stage.
  • Think through long-term data management and preservation options before beginning the project.

Questions to Consider During this Step

  • What will “complete” look like for this project? What is the final stage?
  • How does using the digital medium you’ve chosen contribute to the scholarly conversation in your field? What are the benefits to using this medium that a traditional research project can’t achieve?
  • Will any of the tools you’ve chosen need customization, or can you use existing platforms and templates? 
  • Are you already familiar with and comfortable using the methods, tools, and resources necessary to complete the project? If not, how will you become comfortable with them?
  • Who will take ownership of the project and who will perform any ongoing management after the project is completed?

Resources for Step 1

Visualizing Objects, Places, and Spaces: A Digital Project Handbook: This guide provides an excellent place to start when thinking about a digital research project. It includes information about various types of projects you might want to undertake, and what resources and knowledge you’ll need to do that kind of project.

Emory’s Project Management for the Digital Humanities Guide: This guide provides step-by-step instructions for conceptualizing, staring, and finishing a digital research project. This guide is focused on projects in the Humanities. 

DevDH: Development for the Digital Humanities: This comprehensive collection of lectures provides in-depth information about the different stages of a digital research project. Topics include translating research questions into digital projects, forming project teams, crafting budgets, applying for funding, and more. 

How Did They Make That? and How Did They Make That? The Video! by Miriam Posner: These resources present different digital research projects and what you’ll need to know to start a similar type of project.