What are Digital Scholarship and Digital Humanities?

This post is part of a series of blog posts published in 2015 on digital scholarship and digital humanities. Some information may be outdated. Questions? Please reach out to us online or at the Information Desk. 

What are Digital Scholarship and Digital Humanities?

As the Digital Scholarship Librarian, I spend a lot of time helping people understand what digital scholarship (DS) and digital humanities (DH) are, and how they may incorporate them into their classes and research. I currently explain them this way:

Both DS and DH involve the incorporation of digital tools and methods into scholarly practices for the purposes of advancing scholarship. These tools may be something relatively simple and free like Google Maps and WordPress or more complex licensed software like ArcGIS and Oxygen XML Editor. Methods include such things as word analysis, data mining and textual encoding.

Digital humanities may be seen as falling under the umbrella of digital scholarship. It involves using digital tools and methods to analyze, synthesize, present and teach humanities scholarship. DH is inherently methodological and interdisciplinary. Like all forms of DS, DH scholarship can widely vary in scope.

I’m sure some would not entirely agree with my explanation. That’s to be expected. It’s an evolving conversation about a developing field and we’re all just trying to find our footing. My main concern is when people say things like, “You must be making digital tools not just using them!” or “You must know how to code!” It’s paralyzing. Please don’t feel like you can’t participate in digital scholarship because you don’t do these things. Engage with it the way you want and for the purposes you want. Perhaps you would like to incorporate digital assignments into your classes. Or, perhaps you want to pursue a grant that will enable you to create a large-scale digital project. Go for it! What we do with DS and DH is far more important than how we talk about them.


(In Fall 2014, Professor of English, Dr. Dermot Ryan, taught a digital humanities version of his British Literature 1660-1800 course. This video about DH was created as one of the course’s final projects.)

At this point, you might be wondering how to get started in digital scholarship. Begin by taking a look at the Library’s DS Libguide and ds.lmu.edu. They will provide you with some helpful resources. I also highly recommend reading Lisa Spiro’s “Getting Started in Digital Humanities.” Talk to each other. You might be surprised to learn about digital projects your colleagues are working on. The more we are aware of each other’s work, the more we can support one another.

The next blog post will take a closer look at digital humanities and explain how technology can complement and sometimes enhance humanities studies.