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A beginner’s guide to working with text as data

This book offers a practical introduction to digital history with a focus on working with text. It will benefit anyone who is considering carrying out research in history that has a digital or data element and will also be of interest to researchers in related fields within digital humanities, such as literary or classical studies. It offers advice on the scoping of a project, evaluation of existing digital history resources, a detailed introduction on how to work with large text resources, how to manage digital data and how to approach data visualisation. After placing digital history in its historiographical context and discussing the importance of understanding the history of the subject, this guide covers the life-cycle of a digital project from conception to digital outputs. It assumes no prior knowledge of digital techniques and shows you how much you can do without writing any code. It will give you the skills to use common formats such as plain text and XML with confidence. A key message of the book is that data preparation is a central part of most digital history projects, but that work becomes much easier and faster with a few essential tools.

Jonathan Blaney
Sarah Milligan
Marty Steer
, and
Jane Winters

In digital humanities, the notion of scholarly work tends to be wider than in normalized forms of academic output, such as monographs and academic papers. 1 How do you get the text you want to work with, whether it is in a book on a shelf or comes from a Twitter account, into usable form? This chapter outlines the process and the choices involved. Although we will touch on topics to do with text manipulation, structure and version control, this is a high-level overview and we will look at working with text itself in detail in chapters 4 and 5 . In

in Doing digital history