Final Project


For your final project in this course, to be completed with your group of two to four people, you have two broad options:

  1. You may complete a paper or project that makes use of what you’ve learned during the semester to advance some aspect of your own scholarship. You might, for example, write a paper informed by computational methods, or you might assemble an interactive presentation of data you’ve generated that you think would be of interest to others in the field.
  2. Or you may assemble a grant proposal that describes persuasively and in detail a piece of computationally assisted scholarship you would carry out, given the resources you request in the proposal.

In either case, each group is responsible for preparing and submitting a single project, and all group members will receive the same grade (for the project, not necessarily for the course).

The paper or other project

If you write a paper, it should be around the length of a conventional seminar paper, so maybe 20 pages. You only need to write one for the group; I figure the reduced writing load will be more than offset by the work that you’ll have put into producing the data.

You can write about whatever you want, so long as it has a connection to something we’ve studied; ideally you’ll find a topic that serves the needs and interests of everyone in the group to at least some degree. You’re also free to emphasize whatever aspects of the course material are most relevant to the project. Complex computation isn’t necessarily required. In any case, you should be thinking about this project, like all seminar papers, as one that you might eventually revise for publication.

But not every project finds its best expression in the form of an essay. If your work would be better served as an interactive site or another less conventional mode, that’s fine, too. Just chat with me about what you’re planning and how you’re going to do it. Together we’ll figure out what, if any, additional write-up will be required beyond the site/other thing itself. Like the scholarly essay, you should be thinking about this as something that will eventually see the light of public day.

The grant proposal

It’s not always possible to do first-rate, finished work on the schedule required by a seminar. This is especially true in our case, where there’s a lot of technical and practical overhead. Or maybe what you want to do is to work on a project that could never fit in a semester, because it’s just necessarily big/complex/etc. OK, in that case, pitch the full thing to a (potentially imaginary) granting agency, explaining what you would do and how you would do it, had you but world enough, and time.

The grant proposal option is pretty flexible; in the ideal case, you’ll find an actual call for proposals (whether for a grant or a fellowship) and write an application that conforms to it in full. Maybe you’ll even submit it when you’re done. But it’s OK if that’s not quite how it goes. More details below, but first a list of what every proposal must include:

  1. A copy of the full CFP to which it responds. May be fictional, but must be plausible.
  2. A project abstract of at least 200 words and not more 500 words.
  3. A proposal narrative of about 4,000-5,000 words.
  4. A timeline and work plan.
  5. A budget.
  6. Participant biographies (c. one paragraph each, or a CV if you’re applying for an individual fellowship).
  7. Optional: Appendices containing figures, data tables, or other supporting materials.

If the (real) call to which you’re responding has slightly different requirements, that’s OK (they’ll all look much like this, at least at the schematic level). You’re strongly encouraged to consult real calls such as the NEH Office of Digital Humanities’ Startup Grant program, both for their specific requirements and for their general advice about how to construct a competitive proposal. You might also consult calls from the Canadian SSHRC, various European schemes, the ACLS, or others.

Note that there’s a meaningful difference between grants (which generally support a project that may involve one or more people) and fellowships (which support a scholar, but may also include money for that scholar’s project). Projects are probably better than fellowships for the present case, since they won’t need to be so closely tailored to one person’s (real or imagined) interests. In other words, if you’re writing a fellowship proposal, the whole group is doing a lot of work that might benefit one member far more than the others.

Pay particular attention to anything your call says about audience, project significance, risk tolerance, etc. Note that there are extensive materials on the ODH’s site (and many others) that will help with this and with technical requirements such as budgeting (FYI, ND’s F&A [indirect] rate is 52.0%; that’ll make sense when you’ve read more about budgeting). Most grant programs also make available successful proposals from recent years.

You should submit your full proposal, including a copy of the call itself, as a single PDF that conforms to the requirements of the call. The one exception to this rule is that you need not solicit (nor invent) letters of support, whether institutional or individual.

If you choose to invent a grant program, keep it as realistic as possible in both purpose (individual author societies, for example, don’t generally have $100,000+ grant opportunities) and mechanics. If you go this route, you must create a c. 500-word call for proposals that defines the grant program and the application requirements. It should look broadly similar to a short version of the NEH-ODH Startup Grant guidelines (linked above).

Unless otherwise specified by a real CFP, your abstract must fall between 200 and 500 words in length. Writing abstracts of that scope is a skill. Think of this as practice.

Your timeline might involve a GANTT chart; this isn’t required unless the real call says so.

Your budget should be as realistic as possible. Note the heavy toll that F&A takes where it’s required. You may include cost sharing (realistically, probably in the form of a separate grant from ISLA).

You may invent project participants as necessary. But, umm … your participants shouldn’t all be inventions.

Technical details

Not much here that hasn’t been specified above. A few loose ends:

  • Submit a single copy of your full paper or proposal (or a link, etc. to your digital project) via the Assignments section of Sakai by Friday, December 18 at 5:00 pm. There’s only a small amount of leeway here, since I need to finish grades pretty quickly.
  • Only one person needs to make this submission on behalf of your group. Make sure every group member’s name is prominently indicated in the submission.
  • I don’t especially care about format, but PDF is probably a good choice. Single spacing is helpful for legibility (really!) and saves a tiny fraction of a tree if I print the thing out.