Help Your Advisor Support You

Digital dissertations can be new to advisors too. Here are some resources to help you and your advisor navigate this together.

  • Secure buy-in/approval from your dissertation committee and advisor early on!
  • Consider how your project will be evaluated and how you will convey its value–see, for example, the MLA’s “Guidelines for Evaluating Work in the Digital Humanities and Digital Media.” Note: we include a larger list of evaluation materials in our guide for Faculty Advisors, which we also recommend students review.
  • It cannot be stated enough: document, document, document your process so you can make it clear to those who will critique this work. For an excellent example on documentation and process work refer to Amanda Visconti’s dissertation blog.
  • There are a number of publications available to inform on this topic as well. One great example: Benoit Majerus’ open access article “Training the Trainer: Being a PhD Supervisor of a Digital Historian in the Making” is a short opinion piece on methodologies, challenges, and tools of digital history, and thoughts on collaboration and evaluation.
  • The entirety of Katina Roger Putting the Humanities PhD to Work (Duke UP, 2020) is recommended. But, especially relevant to this topic is the chapter called “What Faculty Advisors Can Do” which might be equally valuable to advisors and students. Roger’s text is fully available as an ebook via the Mina Rees Library.
  • Check out our podcast discussion with GC faculty member and digital dissertation advisor Dr. Matthew K. Gold who touches upon these topics. GC alum Kalle Westerling‘s podcast episode also offers a relevant student’s perspective.

Establish Community

Having a community to troubleshoot with, bounce ideas off, and even learn with can help keep you inspired and motivated. And, being part of a larger scholarly community has career-level benefits. Here are a few suggested starting places for finding like-minded scholars:

Fund Your Work/Training

There are a number of options at CUNY and externally for securing funding for digital projects, training, and resources. Based on the needs of your project, you might obtain funds to build or host the work, purchase relevant tech, hire additional help–such as a programmer or designer, or even to attend a class or institute.

  • Provost’s Digital Innovation Grants (PDIG) are GCDI-funded training, start-up, and implementation grants. The site also hosts listings of previous award winners and their project summaries to offer a sense of what has been previously funded.
  • New Media Lab Awards are for lab members, and include stipends, project, and dissertation grants
  • The GC’s Publics Lab offers a number of grants that would benefit those working on public focused endeavors
  • For those affiliated with institutions in the Greater NYC area, the annual NYCDH Student Award is for prototypes, in progress, and completed digital work
  • NEH Office of Digital Humanities Grants are available for projects that have a faculty member who could serve as the grant PI. (For an example of a GC alum who received this grant for their dissertation work, read about Erin Rose Glass’ NEH funded #SocialDiss/Social Paper project as a chapter in an edited collection or check out the whole project on her website)
  • Many archival institutions fund small DH projects that utilize their holdings. For those interested in archives, internal funding options include, for example, the Lost and Found Archive research grants and CLAGS: The Center for LGBTQ Studies awards. For external archives, consider what institutions hold content in your area. See, for example, the Digital Humanities Fellowship at the American Philosophical Society or the Digital Collections Fellowship at Omohundro Institute

Build Digital Skills

It’s common for students to not yet have all the skills required to develop their digital project. Here are some ways to change that:

Episode 1: Matt Gold

TL;DR: check out the episode’s Key Takeaways

Digital Fellows Di Yoong, Nicole Cote, and Zach Lloyd talk to GC professor Matt Gold about his perspective as a digital dissertation advisor, the benefits and hurdles of producing and archiving digital scholarship, and tips on navigating departmental dissertation conversations.

Matthew K. Gold is Associate Professor of English and Digital Humanities at The Graduate Center, CUNY, where he is Advisor to the Provost for Digital Initiatives, and where he directs the MA Program in Digital Humanities and the MS Program in Data Analysis and Visualization. With Lauren F. Klein, he co-edits the Debates in the Digital Humanities series at the University of Minnesota Press, and has recently co-edited Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities and Debates in the Digital Humanities 2019. His collaborative digital humanities projects, including Manifold Scholarship, the CUNY Academic Commons, and The Commons In A Box have been supported by grants from a the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and other funding institutions. He is Past President of the Association for Computers and the Humanities, the US-based scholarly society for the digital humanities, and the Association for Digital Humanities Organizations, the international association for DH organizations.

00:53: Introduction of speaker

02:13: What is a digital dissertation?

06:34: What kinds of opportunities do digital dissertations offer students and faculty?

10:36: How do you evaluate a digital dissertation?

18:20: How do you plan for changes in technology and obsoletion?

24:22: What wisdom might you have for faculty in advising students on digital dissertations?

28:33: What might benefit students from knowing in advance of starting the project?

35:47: The importance of community

  1. Communication between a student, faculty committee, and department about the scholarly production of a digital project is essential. Dissertation advisors can facilitate the process of departmental discussions, but it is also key to ensure you are working with a committee who is willing to support this kind of work and has openly communicated that approval.
  2. Having a textual component (such as a corresponding chapter or White Paper) is useful for explaining the project and its process–as well as for documenting the work–especially as technology changes so rapidly.
  3. Like all dissertations, community is essential–find a writing or “making” group to discuss your work with your peers.

Building a Project

Make your idea a reality. This guide should help those in the building stage develop their project, connect with available resources, and establish community. Want a different view–alternatively, see the resources from each guide as one large consolidated list.

It’s possible you don’t yet have all the skills required to build your project. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to change that at CUNY and beyond.

Learn about various options at CUNY and externally for securing funding for an array of digital projects, training, and resources.

Having a community to troubleshoot with, bounce ideas off, and even learn with can help keep you inspired and motivated. And, being part of a larger scholarly community has career-level benefits. We’ve collected a few suggested starting places for finding like-minded scholars.

Digital dissertations can be new to advisors too. This guide offers resources to help you and your advisor navigate this space.