CIRCA:Introduction to Methods


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“Research in the humanities, then, is and has been an activity characterized by the four Rs: reading, writing, reflection, and rustication. If these are the traditional research methods in the humanities, what will “new research methods” look like–and more importantly, why do we need them?”—John Unsworth, New Methods for Humanities Research.

What is a method in the digital humanities and what does it have to do with project management? The digital humanities is often about doing things with computers and the digital humanities has over the years developed better practices for how to do things like create a scholarly electronic text. For this reason digital methods, practices and heuristics are important to the field and any project should ask what are the best practices and methods for what you want to do. I could go further and say that much of what happens in humanities computing is experimenting with methods and developing a support community around methods. Willard McCarty in Humanities Computing argues that the field is a "methods commons" where methods come from other disciplines and are adapted for use in the humanities.

In this guide we are not going to worry too much about the difference between heuristics, practices and methods. Instead we will focus on providing you with a survey of the methods out there with brief descriptions and links to more information so you can find the ones that you need.


A Taxonomy of Methods

Just what are the methods of the digital humanities? The AHDS Taxonomy of Computational Methods divides computing methods up into four functions:

  • Capture: How to capture analogue information onto the computer from text to 3D models.
  • Structure and Enhancement: How to structure the information and enhance it. This can include such practices as marking up a text or putting information into a database.
  • Analysis: How to analyze data whether it is text or another form of content like images.
  • Dissemination and Presentation: How to deliver information using computers and the internet.

These functions nicely categorize methods according to the input and output of information, but they don't capture methods that don't have to do with content. Usability methods don't have to do with the content of web pages, for example. Nor do communication practices. developed a more extensive ontology of methods that you can see at Their categories include those of the AHDS Taxonomy and others:

  • Communication and collaboration
  • Data capture
  • Data analysis
  • Data structuring and enhancement
  • Data publishing and dissemination
  • Practice-led research
  • Strategy and project management

This broader ontology was used by to tag projects according to the methods they use so you can find examples of methods.

I have developed a more inclusive list of methods at Taxonomy of DH Methods.

An updated taxonomy is now available from TaDiRAH.

Some Starting Places

Methods Projects

Reflections on Methods

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