Documentation and the users of digital resources in the humanities

Claire Warwick, Isabel Galina, Jon Rimmer, Melissa Terras, Ann Blandford, Jeremy Gow, George Buchanan

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    – The purpose of this paper is to discuss the importance of documentation for digital humanities resources. This includes technical documentation of textual markup or database construction, and procedural documentation about resource construction.

    – A case study is presented of an attempt to reuse electronic text to create a digital library for humanities users, as part of the UCIS project. The results of qualitative research by the LAIRAH study on provision of procedural documentation are discussed, as also is, user perception of the purpose, construction and usability of resources collected using semi‐structured interviews and user workshops.

    – In the absence of technical documentation, it was impossible to reuse text files with inconsistent markup (COCOA and XML) in a Digital Library. Also, although users require procedural documentation, about the status and completeness of sources, and selection methods, this is often difficult to locate.

    Practical implications
    – Creators of digital humanities resources should provide both technical and procedural documentation and make it easy to find, ideally from the project web site. To ensure that documentation is provided, research councils could make documentation a project deliverable. This will be even more vital once the AHDS is no longer funded to help ensure good practice in digital resource creation.

    – Previous work has argued that documentation is important. However, the paper presents actual evidence of the problems caused by a lack of documentation and shows that this makes reuse of digital resources almost impossible. This is intended to persuade project creators who wish resources to be reused to provide documentation about its contents and technical specifications.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)33-57
    Number of pages25
    JournalJournal of Documentation
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


    • documentation management
    • digital libraries
    • Extensible Markup Language
    • data handling


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