Universities and liberal arts colleges seem to be increasingly interested in fostering the undergraduate research experience. For disciplines in the humanities, this has often posed a problem: if the sciences have built into their workflows researchers with different levels of expertise and if they conceive of research projects as providing, in part, training for higher level research for novice workers, there is no equivalent standard practice for the humanities.
How might digital humanities be able to change that practice of humanities research, and, perhaps, to improve on the sciences model of research? Can DH provide undergraduates with the opportunity to conduct independent research without using them only to provide grunt labor? This query raises a whole host of other questions: what qualifies as research and what as grunt work? Does grunt work provide as equally valuable experience as much lauded research? Should the output of such DH undergrad research be something that will serve the uses of other scholars? Or can it be an end in and of itself? Does the research part of the equation happen in humanistic inquiry or in developing digital skills?
This session is in many ways similar to the one proposed by Tonya Howe, Archives, Encoding, and Students, Oh My!”. Indeed, the sort of work I do with students in rare book collections is much like what Tonya is doing with her students. (And I wonder if it’s more than a coincidence that both of us work with books printed before the nineteenth century.) But I’d like to expand the question beyond the logistics of one approach to teaching students and to think about the ways in which DH can be a valuable and multi-valent approach to undergraduate research.