During the summer of 2016, I started my first research project, and I was using digital humanities tools. There was so much I had learned from that experience from archiving data to using Omeka and Neatline. There was not a steep learning curve in terms of the platforms I was using. Instead, the most difficult part of the research was learning how to conduct “research,” especially in the (digital) humanities field. I thought that I would be able to anticipate some of these challenges again, but I still had some trouble along the way.
The most important experience I gained was that research can change while one is investigating different materials and resources. For me, I always view a big picture when I begin my research project. I can picture methodologies, the end goal, life after the project, ways to incorporate it for a bigger audience, etc. However, this can become a real issue when I only have eight weeks to produce meaningful conclusions. Thus, thinking I learned from the previous summer, I fell into this trap again.
I had to re-scope my project each week in order to make further advances. Thus, the number of newspapers and monuments I wanted to archive dwindled, and the number of platforms I had wanted to use. Now I know that less is truly more. When you have less material, I thought it meant that my project was becoming less-meaningful and that if I had eight weeks I could have produced more if I would have worked harder. But, since I made my scope smaller, I realized that I can dive into more specific and interesting texts to uncover materials that were not previously sought after.
This brings me to my next problem within conducting research. I have a constant need to examine whether or not my research is actually contributing something to this world. Being a humanities major on Bucknell’s campus along with a plethora of natural science and engineering majors can be a hassle. Sometimes when I talk to science majors about the research I do, it is looked down upon as unimportant. Later after thinking about my contributions through my research, I realized that this is quite the contrary. A science major’s and a humanities major’s research both contribute to meaningful research to their areas of studies if they choose to put the time and effort into their work. Also, I have a different audience than a science major and different plans for the afterlife of my work. It will and it should take different forms.
Another problem is that it is difficult to conduct research alone while being efficient. There are distractions in life and certainly during the summer. I found that working in a group setting and getting automatic feedback proved to really push me along. Sometimes when working alone, I did not realize how slow I was reading or archiving materials.
Overall, I hope that in my next future research project, I can become much better at creating a scope that fits well within my timeframe. I really enjoy discovering new materials that I never knew existed within my studies and I feel very lucky to be learning through my own archiving. I really enjoyed learning all of the digital platforms, and I hope I can use them in further projects in class or conducting research. There is so much more to learn about research and many avenues that humanities research can take that I know I want to do more projects after this one. But until then, these last three weeks will be hectic, pulling all the information together and creating different visualizations!