Assessing the Impact of an Undergraduate Digital Humanities Summer Research Program

1. Abstract

In 2017, librarians at Bucknell University developed a librarian-led undergraduate digital scholarship research program. We created the Digital Scholarship Summer Research Fellows (DSSRF) program to broaden research opportunities for students and introduce them to new ways of engaging in scholarship. We drew on our previous experience working on digital scholarship and digital humanities projects at Bucknell, through which we had developed skills in GIS, text analysis, and data visualization, as well as our backgrounds as research and instruction librarians to inform the creation of DSSRF. The program operates on a cohort model, with students meeting as a group throughout the summer under the guidance of two librarians. The eight week program provides students with an opportunity to undertake independent research on a topic of their own choosing, and utilize digital humanities tools and methodologies to both answer questions and convey their research findings.

Thus far, there has been limited research on the impact of digital humanities summer research or internship programs. Existing research on the impact of undergraduate research programs focuses on specific fields, e.g., the sciences (Lopatto, 2010). Through DSSRF, we have integrated informal assessment, both throughout the summer and at the conclusion of the program; with the 2019 cohort, we also conducted a more formalized assessment survey. However, these assessments only speak to the impact of the program in the moment, and do not provide any data on how the DSSRF experience impacts students in the months and years after they complete the program.

We surveyed past Digital Scholarship Summer Research Fellows to understand how their participation and the skills they acquired were applicable to their subsequent coursework and career paths, and how the program influenced their thinking about scholarship.

Some of what we hope to learn from our survey includes:

? If and how students put skills or tools learned in DSSRF to use in other contexts

? Did participation in DSSRF influence future course selections, majors/minors, or their career trajectory?

? What research, presentation/public speaking, writing, and soft skills students developed by participating in an immersive research experience

? Changes in the students’ understanding of digital humanities as a field

? How did working with digital scholarship and digital humanities influence their thinking about scholarship more broadly?

We plan to utilize what we learn through this assessment process to make changes to future iterations of the DSSRF program, with the goal of making the program a more holistic and student-centered experience. We hope that sharing this information with the broader digital humanities community will be informative to others facilitating or considering developing undergraduate summer research programs.


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Courtney M. Paddick (, Bloomsburg University, United States of America and Carrie Pirmann (, Bucknell University, United States of America

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