Defining Your Project: A DHLab Toolkit
To get started on a project, it is important to define core project goals with team members and stakeholders. Prioritizing time early on to become familiar with your dataset helps to clarify the project’s viability, scope, and constraints.
- Project Planning & Design Guide – This step-by-step guide for Rapid Prototyping Grant projects provides an overview of how a project might move from big ideas to product implementation and user testing. While not all projects are built the same way, this can help project leaders better understand how to manage resources and expectations to meet their goals within a given timeline.
- Lean Canvas – This exercise focuses on establishing the project vision by identifying the overarching research question(s), audiences, and methods.
- User Analysis – This will walk you through user experience exercises for defining user stories and mapping out the scenarios of user engagement with your project.
- Ideation – These worksheets are designed to translate your user scenarios into a series of sketches that will lay the foundation for the "minimum viable product" (MVP), the minimal set of functionality that completes the project's fundamental requirements. These sketches can be very useful when collaborating with designers and developers. Ideation sets the stage for more user-centered design collaboration that might include wireframe mockups of the MVP.
- Project Charter – The MVP is a distillation of big ideas into a focused set of production goals and deliverables. It serves as the basis of the Project Charter, a signed agreement that articulates the production workflow, roles and responsibilities of collaborators, project timeline, and allocation of resources. Signing the Project Charter marks the transition from the planning phase to the implementation phase.
- Project Closeout – The production process includes workflows for design, content, coding, and analysis, culminating in a protoype. User testing is one way to assess the prototype's usability. Following final adjustments to the interface, a Project Closeout meeting is an opportunity for all stakeholders to review lessons learned and to articulate the maintenance and long-term sustainability of the project.
For support with project planning and design, please stop by the Digital Humanities Lab during Office Hours to ask questions or try an exercise.
Identifying Your Project Timeline
Collaborators on a digital humanities project should have a shared, manageable timeline within which to complete the work. It’s therefore helpful to sketch out your major project milestones, along with the dates by which you need to achieve those milestones.
If you’re working toward a conference presentation, are on a grant cycle, or otherwise have a date by which you need to wrap up all project work, try working backwards with your timeline to determine whether your full project vision can be achieved in your available time. List all of your project goals along with conservative estimations of the time required for each — build in some time for project iteration, back-up plans, and other time commitments you have that might affect your availability for this project. If you need help estimating timelines or identifying your project’s core milestones, stop by the DHLab so we can discuss your project together!
Finding On-Campus Collaborators
Many digital humanities projects emerge from cross-discplinary conversations. When starting a project, reach out to people from other fields who have different research interests and skillsets to see if they might be open to collaborating. To identify potential partners on campus, try emailing departmental listservs with open project calls. You can also reach out to the DHLab to see if we know of someone who might be a good match.
How do I get started?
If you're new to digital humanities and are interested in starting a project, stop by the Franke Family Digital Humanities Laboratory in Sterling Memorial Library during our Office Hours.
We also highly recommend looking at our Project Planning and Design Toolkit to learn about the steps involved in a typical project life cycle. In addition to projects at Yale, please check out projects at other digital humanities centers, including:
- Stanford's Literary Lab
- Northeastern's NULab for Maps, Texts, and Networks
- Maryland's Institute for Tecnology in the Humanities
- DHCommons Projects
In addition to on-campus support, there are also off-campus and online resources that you might try. The following programs all offer opportunities for researchers to learn different digital humanities methods and theoretical approaches:What we offer