What’s the project all about?

The project aims to understand how search is used within humanities research methodology and to use this knowledge in the design of better search interfaces for online resources which genuinely meet the needs of the research community. Data searching is now a core activity within humanities research and, given the vast evidence base which is now available to scholars in a digital form, the design of search has a significant impact on research results. However, the research community is rarely consulted when content providers are designing online resources.

The project will survey current practices in order to establish existing search methodologies and their deficiencies before using this knowledge to design a user interface for our test dataset and evaluate its impact on research in the field.

The project involves collaboration between the University of Sheffield’s departments of History, English and Sociological Studies, the Humanities Research Institute and the content provider ProQuest. The test dataset will be approximately 50,000 pages of 17th Century newsbooks collected by the bookseller George Thomason, currently only available as digitised images via ProQuest’s Early English Books Online (EEBO). Test research questions for addressing the potential impact of the search design will revolve around understanding the role of newsbooks as the drivers of community formation.

The project will explore the use of Participatory Design in developing search tools for the arts and humanities community. The aim of this is to ensure that the design of ICT meets the needs of users by making sure that they are actively engaged at every stage of the technical design process as creative agents rather than reactive consultants.


PSD: Newsbooks is funded by an AHRC speculative research grant

Project Team

  • Professor Michael Braddick (Univ. of Sheffield, History)
  • Dr Marcus Nevitt (Univ. of Sheffield, English)
  • Dr Bridgette Wessels (Univ. of Sheffield, Sociological Studies)
  • Project Officer: Keira Borrill (HRI Digital)
  • Digital Humanities Developer: Jamie McLaughlin (HRI Digital)

Advisory Group

  • Professor Bob Anderson (Nottingham), Horizon Digital Economy Research – specialist in participatory innovation.
  • Professor Tony McEnery (Lancaster), Professor of English Language and Linguistics – specialist in Computer Corpus Research
  • Professor Tim Hitchcock (Hertfordshire), Professor of History – specialist in digital humanities.
  • Professor Joad Raymond (UEA), Professor of English Literature – specialist in seventeenth-century journalism.
  • ProQuest

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