Using DH with an Undergraduate Researcher Ashley Reese, PhD, University of South Florida

My Own Project

  • Defining American girls' literature as a genre.
  • Distinct from American boys' literature and British girls' literature.

Illustration from Carolyn Wells' Marjorie's Vacation (1907)

Girls' Literature

  • Published in the United States.
  • Time period: 1850-1939.
  • Centers around a girl or girls.
  • Written by a female author.
  • Novel-length, not short stories.
  • Fiction.
  • Worked with Special Collections at USF and UF to locate texts.

Illustration from Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (1868)

Initial Finding

American girls' literature is, for the most part, a bildungsroman ending in marriage (Reese, forthcoming).

Annis Pratt argues that fictional girls "grow down" (31), rather than growing up like fictional boys.

Illustration from Annie Fellows Johnston's The Little Colonel (1895)

Initial Challenge: There are hundreds (if not thousands) of girls' books.
Solution: Utilize digital tools to read the texts.
Analysis of Different Genres using stylo in R Studio

Challenges for DH Researchers

  • Majority (1850-1924) are out of copyright.
  • Not all are digitized.
  • Must be formatted as .txt / UTF-8 encoded file.
  • Not all digitized texts are "clean."
  • Need file naming system that is consistent and flexible.

Illustration from Nell Speed's The Carter Girls (1917)

Undergraduate Research

At USF, undergraduate research is broadly defined as a project that enables individual students or groups of students to pose or work from a defined research question, apply methods of inquiry to generate findings, and share the findings with others through presentation and publication.

Challenges for an Undergraduate DH Researcher

  • Unfamiliar with tools.
  • Unfamiliar with the conventions of DH research.
  • Area of research may not be their own- helping them make connections between fields and/or the professional world.

Learning Objectives

  • To understand the types of texts needed for DH text analysis.
  • To practice the skills necessary for adapting texts for DH text analysis.
  • To understand the genre of American girls’ literature.
  • To present research at the Undergraduate Humanities Conference at USF.


  • Week One: Reading and initial meeting.
  • Week Two: Find and clean 5-10 texts (using provided list- American Girls’ Lit).
  • Week Three: Find and clean 5-10 texts (using provided list- American Girls’ Lit).
  • Week Four: Find and clean 5-10 texts (using provided list- finishing American Girls’ Lit, current).
  • Week Five: Find and clean 5-10 texts (using provided list).
  • Week Six: Find and clean 5-10 texts (using provided list).
  • Week Seven: Find and clean 5-10 texts (using provided list).
  • Week Eight: Find and clean 5-10 texts (using provided list).
  • Week Nine: Find and clean 5-10 texts (using provided list).
  • Week Ten: Research and rename 5-10 texts (using provided list- Boys' Lit).
  • Week Eleven: Research and rename 5-10 texts (using provided list- finishing Boys' Lit); prepare research presentation.
  • Week Twelve: Prepare research presentation.
  • Week Thirteen: Present research.

How to Save Texts

  1. Download the file as .txt file (if available).
  2. Clean up the text, eliminating any legal wording, dedications, title, author name, table of contents. Leave chapter titles that serve as headings.
  3. When saving make sure that it’s encoded as UTF-8.
  4. Label texts based on their genre, then the year, then the title, using underscores to separate the words. Example, Daddy Long Legs is set at college and was published in 1912. It gets saved as school_1912_daddy_long_legs.txt I’ve labeled the first set of texts as to what genre they are. If you ever have a question that you can’t find out online, you’re welcome to email me.
  5. Save/upload the text to the corresponding folder. In the case of Daddy Long Legs, it would be saved to NA School Stories.
Scatterplot of Boys' Lit and Orphan Girls' Lit

Works Cited

  • Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. Roberts Brothers, 1868.
  • Johnston, Annie Fellows. The Little Colonel. L.C. Page, 1895.
  • Pratt, Annis. Archetypal Patterns in Women’s Fiction. Indiana University Press, 1981.
  • Reese, Ashley N. The Rise of Girls' Literature. Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.
  • Sinclair, Stéfan, Geoffrey Rockwell and the Voyant Tools Team. 2012. Voyant Tools (web application).
  • Speed, Nell. The Carter Girls. A.L. Burt, 1917.
  • USF Undergraduate Research.
  • Webster, Jean. Daddy Long Legs. The Century Company, 1912.
  • Wells, Carolyn. Marjorie’s Vacation. Dodd, Mead, and Co, 1907.


Created with images by StartupStockPhotos - "startup start-up notebooks" • Devon Divine - "untitled image" • Thought Catalog - "untitled image" • Kaitlyn Baker - "untitled image"