MSc Digital Scholarship: Curriculum

The course comprises the following curriculum:

  1. Elements of Digital Scholarship: a presentation-based overview of key topics (Michaelmas and Hilary Terms) arising in the ‘data life-cycle’ which structures most leading projects in the field.
  2. Methods of Digital Scholarship: offering students the choice of two Technical Options Papers which provide the hands-on training needed to equip students with specific methods relevant to their project (Michaelmas Term).
  3. Subject-Specific Paper: providing graduate-level work of a more traditional kind, chosen by the student from a selected list of existing Master's papers in other Faculties (Hilary Term). Please note that the opportunity to follow an option course will be subject to availability and timetabling, which may vary from year to year.
  4. Practicum placement: offering students immersion in one of Oxford’s vast array of flagship Digital Humanities projects and/or the Bodleian’s technical departments in preparation for their dissertation project (Trinity Term). 
  5. Dissertation



Elements of Digital Scholarship

This core paper provides a systematic overview of every stage of a digital project and its data life-cycle. Each topic is illustrated by ongoing work in one or more of Oxford’s flagship digital scholarship projects, the key problems they have encountered and the solutions they have developed. As such, the series also serves to introduce students to the Division’s major projects in the field, with a view to choosing the Practicum Placement and the dissertation topic.

The paper is taught for 8 weeks in each of Michaelmas and Hilary terms (16 weeks total). It is delivered via a two-hour session per week comprising a lecture from a guest speaker and a seminar discussion of assigned readings led by the MSc course director, thereby ensuring continuity across topics.

The paper is assessed by 2 x 2000 word essays, one due by the start of Hilary Term and the other due by the start of Trinity Term.

The outline of the sessions is as follows: 

Michaelmas Term Hilary Term
Week 0 Introductory meetingOutline of the course / Requirements and assessment.  
Week 1 Digital Scholarship and the Data Life CycleWhat is digital scholarship? Week 1 Analysing dataPeople: Network and prosopographical analysis.
Week 2 Project PlanningCollaboration and credit / Building and sustaining a community / Modes of interaction / Project management Week 2 Analysing dataPlace and time: Geospatial and chronological analysis.
Week 3 Data ModellingPlace, Time, and People / Texts, Topics, and Images.  Week 3 Analysing dataVisualization
Week 4 Data Collection & Assembling Metadata.  Modes of data capture / Collaborative data collection.  Week 4 Analysing dataComputer Vision
Week 5 Assembling TextRepresenting documents / Generating text / Intellectual Property, copyright, and licensing of data / Ethics Week 5 Sharing dataEngaging with the Public / Podcasting Social  Communication of Data
Week 6 Processing Text and Digital Editing. Standards, tools, and problems / What is a digital object? / Genetic editions


Week 6 Sharing data..

Engaging with the Public / Gamification / User Interfaces/ Digital tools for engaging with museums and cultural heritage collections

Week 7 Processing MetadataReconciliation and disambiguation / Correction. Week 7 Digital Preservation, Sustainability, and Archiving. From data life cycle to data life cycles
Week 8 Biases and Ethics in Digital Scholarship. Week 8 Open Access and Reproducibility.




Methods of Digital Scholarship

Each student chooses two technical papers from the list of possible options below, each to be taught for 4 weeks in Michaelmas Term. Each paper will normally be assessed at its conclusion by a practical test.

The following papers are available in 2023-24 (and it is anticipated will also be available in 2024-25):

  1. IIIF
  2. Text Encoding for Digital Editions (TEI)
  3. Mapping People and Place
  4. Text Analysis
  5. Data Visualization
  6. AI and Machine Learning


In addition, students can undertake the following training, subject to availability and timetabling:

  • Introduction to Python
  • Introduction to R
Subject-specific paper

To enable students to explore other courses offered by the Humanities Division, in Hilary Term each student will take a Subject-Specific paper delivered by one of the faculties in the Humanities Division. 

The paper will be assessed according to the host department's regulations, usually in the form of an essay of around 5-6,000 words and submitted at the end of Hilary term.

Practicum Placement

Each student spends a minimum of 20 days of Trinity term as a research assistant on one of Oxford’s flagship digital projects. The placement will be assessed by submission of a digital asset  and 1,000-word report due by the end of this term. The placements will be selected from the following projects and they will change from year to year.


Each student writes a 10,000-12,000 word dissertation on a topic approved by their supervisor, due by the first Friday in August. In some cases it may be appropriate for the wordcount to be reduced if a practical component is included.

Students visit Diamond Light Source

Students visit Diamond Light Source