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Common Outline Patterns

Common Outline Patterns

Here is a list of common patterns of conference proposals. These illustrate and go with Writing Abstracts in the Digital Humanities.

Cool Project Proposal

  • Start with a problem for which the project is a solution
  • Give background on the project
  • Talk about what the project does in general and for who
  • Demo the project
  • Talk about any evaluations of the projects
  • Talk about what the next version will do
  • Conclusion
  • References

Alternate Cool Project Demo

It is actually more dramatic and effective to start with the demo (show) and then tell people why the project looks the way it does

  • Start with a demo that is contextualized. If you have a flair for the dramatic you can start with something like "Imagine you wanted to ...."
  • Back up to give the background on the project
  • Compare to other projects
  • Discuss the theoretical, technological, aesthetic or critical perspectives that informed the design
  • Conclude with next steps

Analytical Tools and Insightful use

For an analytical tool it can be useful to not only talk about the tool but include an example of an insight arrived at using the tool.

  • Start with the type of analytical question - Again you can be dramatic and start with a question for which the tool is part of an answer
  • Give a concrete example of something you wanted to study
  • Show the tool and explain how it works. Provide a screen shot
  • Show how the tool helped with the concrete study
  • Talk about general features and how others can use it
  • Conclude with next steps
  • References

Some tool projects should consider submitting a peer-reviewed workshop proposal rather than a paper proposal. A workshop can teach potential users . A workshop can engage others in testing the tool rather than just telling us about it.

Theoretical and/or Historical Paper

Increasingly digital humanities conferences are welcoming papers that reflect critically on the history and theoretical perspectives of the field.

  • Start with the theoretical or historical question that animates the paper. You could start with a quote or present what you think is the default position on a question. If your paper is historical, you could start with a nice quote that shows how the issue was considered in the past.
  • Provide a context to help us understand the importance of the issue or event or history.
  • Outline the different theoretical positions or the key historical players or the key moments. You want to demonstrate that you have done enough research to be confident about the outline, even if more research will take place between acceptance and presentation. Don't just wave your hands, but give us a feeling of what is important and what will be expanded on.
  • Outline where you stand. Outline the problems you have with various positions and what you believe is the truth of the matter. Tell us how you will argue your case.
  • Conclude by discussing what other questions should be engaged if you are right.

In some cases where you are dealing with an open theoretical issue you might propose a panel so that different perspectives can be heard.

Activist Project

Many digital humanities projects are designed to make a difference in some way. Your presentation may be part of the provocation that you feel is needed and not simply a report on the provocation. Such papers that challenge the audience directly break down the 4th wall, if you will, and if done carefully can be very effective. Some activist projects are better presented as poster sessions or workshops so that you can interact with those you want to activate. Consider also how you might follow up with people convinced.

  • Start with the issue or problem that calls for change. Be clear in your call - what are you calling for?
  • Provide background so we can understand the urgency of the call. Provide your background so people can situate your perspective on the issue and understand your passion.
  • Provide an outline of how you would document the issue and present the call if the paper is accepted
  • If your presentation is going to be in alternative format (dialogue, performance, artist's talk) then describe what you will do and why the presentation form matches the issue.
  • Describe how people might follow up on your call for change. Will you provide additional information at the presentation?

Scholarship of Pedagogy Project

Humanities computing used to see a lot more papers on pedagogical innovations. Alas, many of those working on the scholarship of digital learning have moved to more congenial conferences whether they are in language learning or writing studies. That said, reports on such projects are still welcome, especially if they involve subjects digital humanists are likely to teach. The important thing is to describe how the project was evaluated, even if informally.

  • What is the pedagogical challenge your project addresses. What were the learning objectives.
  • Why does that challenge matter? What is the context of the challenge
  • Narrative on the project that provides background, local context, and what was done
  • Demonstration of any new or unfamiliar digital learning tools
  • Discussion of evaluation and the results of the evaluation, even if it was just formative evaluation
  • Next steps

Some pedagogy projects should consider submitting a peer-reviewed workshop proposal rather than a paper proposal. A workshop can teach the teachers. A workshop can illustrate the pedagogical innovation rather than just tell us about it.

Serious Game Project

A serious game project is in theory no different than a pedagogical or activist project. The difference is that the digital project that is supposed to provoke learning or action is a game. You will want to think about how the game will be demoed.



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