Final Projects

Your final project will involve research on a topic of your choosing, as long as the topic is relevant to our course. I encourage you to think about what interests you and what you want to get out of this course, to be creative, and to come talk to me about any ideas you have. The project involves several components: a proposal, peer review throughout the semester, and a final project consisting of a digital component and a blog explaining your project.

The blog on your final project should help viewers understand your digital project, talk about how you went about researching and creating the project, why you choose whichever digital tools you used, and so on. Think of this as a section where you talk about the methodology of your project and talk on a meta level about knowledge production. What does your project teach a viewer? Is what a viewer learns different from what you learned in putting the project together? What kind of audience would be interested in the project and how did that shape your choices? Think of this as a discussion of knowledge production and dissemination.

You may choose to integrate the digital component into your blog (or vice versa, if you use a digital tool that allows you to include text), and which piece is more in-depth depends on how you choose to put your project together. You can think of this project as primarily digital (i.e., creating a digital project and explaining that project via blog) or as primarily written (i.e., using digital tools to visualize pieces of your research, but relying more heavily on text than visualizations.) In either case, you should think and write about what choices you made in creating your project.

You may also consider collaborating with another student, but be careful here: collaborative projects need to involve all collaborators doing substantive and separate work in addition to whatever you do together. If you have an idea for a project that’s simply too big for one person or you and another student have skillsets that compliment each other, collaboration may be a good idea. Otherwise, individual projects are preferable.

This project must be substantive to receive full credit. Other sections of HIST 4325 require students to write a research paper; treat your final project as its equivalent, in terms of effort and thoughtfulness.

The grade breakdown for the final project is:

  • Project Proposal (5%)
  • DH Component (12.5%)
  • Blog Component (12.5%)

We will come up with a rubric as a class, and will look at various digital projects throughout the semester to help you think about what you want to do.

For now, think about what interests you, what kinds of research you can reasonably do in one semester, and how you might visually represent that research. In the past, I have had students use polling software to poll students and write up the results, create multimedia timelines, use Voyant to perform text analysis, and use visualizations like word clouds and Google Ngrams to illustrate arguments within papers. These are just a few ideas; how you think about this project is largely up to you.  

Some things to consider when brainstorming…

Consider what kind of audience you’re presenting your project to. In most classes, the audience of a research paper is the professor. In this class, I encourage you to think outside the box. This might mean you want to create an academic resource for psychology students; if so, you could decide to create an annotated bibliography using tools like Zotero and It might mean you want to present historical ideas to a popular audience; if so, you might decide to write an in-depth blog with multimedia embedded into it to make it more appealing to casual readers.

Consider what non-text information exists on topics that interest you. If you are interested in asylums and deinstitutionalization, you might create a map or timeline to visualize the rise and fall of inpatient mental healthcare. If you are interested in something that involves empirical data, you might use Storyline.js to create and annotate that data. One example of this might be tracing the number of studies published on a few diagnoses throughout the 20th century and describing why each diagnosis became more or less popular over time.

Consider what you want to get out of this project. What kind of research would be most useful to you? Most of you are undoubtedly not history majors, and your interest in this class probably leans more to the psychology side than the historical one. In that case, what contemporary issues can be illuminated by historical research? Alongside this, think about what kind of work you intend to do throughout your time at TSU and after. If you intend to go a research-heavy field, you might use this project to become familiar with the process of doing research. That might include locating and collating studies on a particular topic, or it might include looking at the IRB process and blogging about how and why TSU’s IRB process was developed. Conversely, if you intend to work with patients, perhaps research on the history of ethics and issues in counselor-patient interactions would be more useful to you.

Consider what you can get done in a semester. You should aim for having a finished project at the end of the semester. However, it’s possible you will bite off more than you can chew, especially if you use more time-intensive digital tools or try to learn new tools you haven’t encountered before. That’s okay. Part of what the blog component of the project should talk about is how you came up with something feasible within a semester, what limitations that placed on your project and (if relevant) how and why your project fell short of what you expected. We’ll talk about feasibility as we approach the due date for your proposals and I’ll also comment on this when I grade them. You should think about this as you’re brainstorming and aim for something ambitious but achievable, but keep in mind as you’re working that sometimes failure can be instructive and that you can frame roadblocks you run into as learning experiences with their own value.

Project Proposal

A brief project proposal is due on October 8. You should lay out what your topic, how you intend to approach it, what you expect to find, what digital tools you are thinking about using and why you think those tools will be effective.

Peer Review

Throughout the semester, you will talk and share your work with your fellow students. Use peer review sessions as a space to bounce ideas off one another and to make sure that your research makes sense to others.

Final Project

As said above, this is a very flexible project. How you go about the project will depend on what interests you and what kind of work you want to do.

We will come up with a rubric as a class, but the basic requirements for the project are:

  • A digital component and a written component; these must make sense together. Merely writing a blog and throwing in a visualization that is tangential to the blog is not sufficient.
  • In-depth research; this project should be treated as the equivalent of an upper division research paper. What constitutes research is flexible, but you should treat this project seriously and create something that reflects a real effort to understand and present whatever topic you choose.
  • An explanation of the choices you made (why you chose a particular kind of visualization, what research went into the project as a whole, what you intend for viewers to take away from the project, any issues you ran into, etc.)

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