Blog Post 5

Possible Ways historians can represent primary sources into data. Consider the primary sources we have looked at already in this class as well as primary sources you have encountered in your own work. How might these primary sources be represented as data? What are the advantages of considering primary sources as data? What are Wickham’s principles of tidy data?

After working with primary sources and learning about possible ways historians can represent them into data, I’ve been able to see how tidy datasets are a great method to use. The greatest thing about them is that they can be used in many ways for various kinds of sources such as newspaper articles, old journals, or record keeping logs, and still be considered efficient and effective in organizing and presenting key information. Considering primary sources as data contains so many advantages when historians or scholars are doing research since it allows all their work to be laid out in a concise manner rather than having textbooks and notebook papers scattered everywhere. This way, you’re able to choose what kinds of elements you want to focus on in your tidy dataset and present them in different columns that make the best sense to you. For example, when examining a primary source, it can be confusing to keep proper track of all the page numbers, dates, names, locations, and other important elements that one may be researching. Having a tidy dataset to represent these observations you’ve obtained makes it a lot easier to examine and keep track. They also provide the advantage of being able to see all the information as a whole, so that you’re able to pick up on any patterns or discrepancies that allow you to be able to make connections and conclusions about the data all together. I know I’ve personally done research where I tried to keep physical notes of everything I wanted to use or remember without any sense of proper organization, and it honestly becomes very overwhelming and confusing quickly. After our lesson in class about what tidy datasets are and having the opportunity to practice how to create them, I can’t believe I never knew about them sooner as it would’ve saved me a lot of time and frustration in the past. Especially understanding Hadley Wikham’s principles of tidy data significantly helped me in learning how to model one myself. He explains in his article how “each variable forms a column, each observation forms a row, and each type of observational unit forms a table.” Truthfully, it was a little confusing to understand how to apply these principles correctly at first, but once I tried to do it myself and worked in a group to create our own tidy dataset, I realized what he meant and understood how to apply the principles. A key thing I realized from this experience is that there truly is no right or wrong choice in what elements an individual must have in their tidy dataset, and it all depends on what kind of information you find significant to include in order to raise important questions and conclusions. With this in mind, I look forward to implementing this method to my future research so that I may get the most knowledge out of my primary sources.

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