History 8550: Seminar in Digital History

Clemson University, Fall 2023

Course Details

Fall 2023
Clemson University

Meets in person unless noted otherwise.

3 credit hours.
Meets: 4-6:30pm
Location: Watt Center 307

Instructor Info

Instructor: Dr. Amanda Regan
aeregan (at) clemson.edu

Pronouns: She/Her

Office Location: Hardin Hall 004

Office Hours: My office hours are flexible and you can schedule a time to meet with me. Make an appointment for Office Hours here.

Course Overview

History 8550 is a seminar in digital history where students will create a piece of digital scholarship that uses digital history methods to advance a historical argument. Students will work in collaboration with the course instructor and their primary advisor to come up with a project that uses digital methods to advance a historiographical interpretation. Unlike a traditional seminar paper, this paper will likely have multiple components (a dataset, narrative writing piece, and code).

The format of this final project may differ depending on the methods and sources that you use for your project. While not required, many students will build on projects, code, or ideas developed in History 8510. Regardless of the platform you choose to work in, all students will create a documented dataset based on primary source research and use digital methods to analyze it. The resulting article length paper (or project text, if appropriate) will be between 7,500 and 10,000 words.

Learning Objectives:

By the end of this course, student will be familiar with the key methods and challenges in building a digital history project. Students will leave this course able to propose, develop, document, and build a digital history project based on original primary source research. They will also be able to use these digital methods to advance a historiographical argument.

Required Texts:

Assignments & Grades

Grades will be based on the assignments listed below.

Assignment Percentage of Grade
Research Proposal/Grant Application 25%
Digital History Project and Paper 50%
Class Participation, Peer Reviews, and other written work 25%

  • Research Proposal/Grant Application (25%): The research proposal/grant application should consist of a project narrative, workplan, and a set of deliverables. It should follow the examples and guidelines set by the National Endowment for the Humanities. For links to each of the NEH’s programs and further details see the assignment directions on canvas.
  • Digital History Project and Paper (50%): The format and platform for your project may differ depending on your topic so many of the details for this assignment will be worked out on an indivudal basis between the student and instructor. But in general there will be several components to this project:
    • Dataset - every student will have some form of a dataset. Every dataset must have a written discussion of methodology in the format of a data biography. In most cases the data should be hosted in its own repository on github. If necessary, this dataset can be private.
    • Code - Many projects will have code that accompanies the project. Whether for data manipulation purposes (something like geocoding or ocr), or for data analysis (text analysis, mapping etc) a github repository for the project should be created and code should be commented with descriptive transparent commentary about the methods being used. Code should be reproducible and open access unless there are ethical or copyright concerns.
    • Written Component - Every student must write a seminar style paper based on their work. In some cases data and code will be integrated into the article itself in the style of articles from the Journal of Digital Histroy. Others, such as those working in GIS or with an extensive relational database, may need to include screenshots or links in their paper. The format will be worked out in consultation with the instructor on an individual basis, but in general the written component should be between 8,000 and 10,000 words.
  • Class Participation, Peer Reviews, and other written work (25%): Throughout the class you will have small chunks of writing, drafts, and peer reviews due. These milestones are outlined in the schedule and all assignments should be posted to canvas and to slack where noted in the schedule.
Grading System

Final grades will follow Clemson’s percentage-based grading scale. Please note that I will round up only if you fall within .5% of the next grade up. So, for example, I will round up a grade that is a 89.51% or higher. Please do not ask me to round your grade up if you don’t fall within that range.

  • A: 90-100%
  • B: 80-90%
  • C: 70-79%
  • D: 60-69%
  • F: 0-59%

Policies & Procedures

Please note that this syllabus may be updated online as necessary. The online version of this syllabus is the only authoritative version.

Late Work

Due dates for all assignments are listed on the course syllabus and in the schedule for the class. No late work will be accepted. Many of the milestones and due dates for this class are scaffolded in order to help you be succesful and complete the final project. Therefore, it is essential that work is turned in on time and that you stay up to date with the work in class.

Classroom Conduct

In order to learn, we must be open to the views of people different from ourselves. In the time we share together over the semester, please honor the uniqueness of your fellow classmates and appreciate the opportunity we have to learn from one another. Please respect each others’ opinions and refrain from personal attacks or demeaning comments of any kind. Anyone who engages in hostile or antagonistic rhetoric will be asked to leave the classroom immediately.

Academic Integrity

As members of the Clemson University community, we have inherited Thomas Green Clemson’s vision of this institution as a “high seminary of learning.” Fundamental to this vision is a mutual commitment to truthfulness, honor, and responsibility, without which we cannot earn the trust and respect of others. Furthermore, we recognize that academic dishonesty detracts from the value of a Clemson degree. Therefore, we shall not tolerate lying, cheating, or stealing in any form.

All infractions of academic dishonesty by undergraduates must be reported to Undergraduate Studies for resolution through that office. In cases of plagiarism instructors may use the Plagiarism Resolution Form.

See the Undergraduate Academic Integrity Policy website for additional information and the current catalogue for the policy.

Please keep in mind that if you are copying and pasting text that you did not write yourself, you might be plagiarizing. If you are using copied text, whether pasted or retyped manually, you must be sure to accurately cite the information. Text is accurately cited when: 1) pasted text is surrounded by quotation marks or offset as a block quote and 2) the pasted text is attributed to its author and source and 3) the pasted text is cited in a footnote, endnote, or bibliography.

Student Accessibility Services

Clemson University values the diversity of our student body as a strength and a critical component of our dynamic community. Students with disabilities or temporary injuries/conditions may require accommodations due to barriers in the structure of facilities, course design, technology used for curricular purposes, or other campus resources. Students who experience a barrier to full access to this class should let the instructor know and make an appointment to meet with a staff member in Student Accessibility Services as soon as possible. You can make an appointment by calling 864-656-6848, by emailing studentaccess@lists.clemson.edu, or by visiting Suite 239 in the Academic Success Center building. Appointments are strongly encouraged – drop-ins will be seen if at all possible, but there could be a significant wait due to scheduled appointments. Students who have accommodations are strongly encouraged to request, obtain and send these to their instructors through their AIM portal as early in the semester as possible so that accommodations can be made in a timely manner. It is the student’s responsibility to follow this process each semester.
You can access further information at the Student Accessibility website. Other information is at the university’s Accessibility Portal.

Commitment to Diversity

“Clemson University aspires to create a diverse community that welcomes people of different races, cultures, ages, genders, sexual orientation, religions, socioeconomic levels, political perspectives, abilities, opinions, values and experiences.” - The Clemson University Title IX statement regarding non-discrimination

Clemson University is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, veteran’s status, genetic information or protected activity in employment, educational programs and activities, admissions and financial aid. This includes a prohibition against sexual harassment and sexual violence as mandated by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. This Title IX policy is located on the Campus Life website. Ms. Alesia Smith is the Clemson University Title IX Coordinator, and the Executive Director of Equity Compliance. Her office is located at 223 Brackett Hall, 864.656.0620. Remember, email is not a fully secured method of communication and should not be used to discuss Title IX issues.

Emergency Preparedness

Emergency procedures have been posted in all buildings and on all elevators. Students should be reminded to review these procedures for their own safety. All students and employees should be familiar with guidelines from the Clemson Police Department. Visit here for information about safety.

Clemson University is committed to providing a safe campus environment for students, faculty, staff, and visitors. As members of the community, we encourage you to take the following actions to be better prepared in case of an emergency:


Note: Unless stated otherwise, all reading should be completed before class for the day that it is listed.

Before the first class meeting:

  • Discuss your project with your advisor.
  • Write a short paragraph that provides an overview of the topic and method(s) you plan to work with this semester. Send that paragraph to your advisor and cc Dr. Regan.
  • After you have discussed your project with your advisor and sent them the overview, ask your advisor to send an email to me confirming that they approve of your topic and that you have discussed it.

Tue., Aug. 29

  • Milestones:
    • Prepare a paragraph about the topic and method(s) you plan to use in class. Share it in slack and submit it via canvas. Be ready to give an overview in class.
  • Topics:
  • Readings:
    • Schrag, Chapter 3-4

Tue., Sep. 5

  • Topics:
    • Data and Sources
      • Bring an example of a primary source you plan to use. Be prepared to discuss your plans for constructing a dataset from that sourcebase.
  • Readings:
    • Schrag, Chapters 5-10
    • Lai, The Grant Proposal Book, Task A and B.

Tue., Sep. 12

  • Milestones:
    • By noon on Tuesday, upload to slack and canvas:
      • a 2-3 page overview of your project as it relates to the literature in your field.
      • Include a list of sources - divide it into primary and secondary sources.
      • Read your classmates proposals and be prepared to discuss in class.
  • Topics:
    • The Grant Literature Review
    • Making Historiographical Interventions and spelling out the humanities value of your project.
  • Readings:

Tue., Sep. 19

Tue., Sep. 26

  • Milestones:
    • Grant Proposals DUE Sunday, September 24th by 11:59pm.
  • Topics:
    • Before class, read your classmates grant proposals with the grant panel guidelines provided. Be prepared to discuss and present your feedback in class.
    • Grant Proposal Discussion and Mock Grant Panel Review.
  • Readings:
    • TBD

Tue., Oct. 3

  • No class, work on your project.

Tue., Oct. 10

  • Topics:
    • Progress Reports
    • Writing strategies
  • Readings:
    • Schrag, 13-15

Tue., Oct. 17

  • No class, fall break.
  • Milestones:
    • First Rough Draft DUE Sunday Oct 22nd by 11:59pm.
      • The first rough draft should be between 1200 and 1750 words and your dataset should be nearing completion.

Tue., Oct. 24 and Tues., Oct. 31

Tue., Nov. 7

  • Milestones:
    • Second Rough Drafts Due
      • The second rough draft should be between 5-7,000 words and your code should be far along.
  • Readings:

Tue., Nov. 14

  • Milestones:
    • Complete Project Drafts DUE
  • Topics:
    • What does Peer Review in the field of Digital History look like?
    • How is digital peer review different?
    • Peer Review Assignments and Overview of how to use GitHub for peer review
  • Readings:

Tue., Nov. 21

  • Milestones:
    • Peer & Code Review Due by noon
  • Topics:
    • Discuss Peer Reviews
  • Readings:
    • TBD

Tue., Nov. 28

Tue., Dec. 5

  • Topics:
    • Scaling Up for the Dissertation and Beyond
    • Guest speaker: Dr. Jeri Wieringa, Assisstant Director of the Center for Digital Humanities at Princeton University
  • Readings:
    • Zoe LeBlanc, Celeste Tuong Vy Sharpe, and Jeri Wieringa. “From Precedents to Collective Action: Realities and Recommendations for Digital Dissertations in History”. Debates in the Digital Humanities 2023
  • Final Project Tech Check
    • Please submit your github repository to Canvas so that I can perform a tech check and ensure that project runs on other devices.

December 12th

  • Final project due by 4pm
  • Presentation of Digital Projects