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The data-minded academic


History professor provides students with essential data skills

"There are certain skills that a twenty-first century graduate in history should have and this subject is one way in which we … try to embed them in it."

David GoodmanSo says David Goodman, a professor in the Department of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne.

He teaches, among other courses, the compulsory capstone course, Making History. It is designed to have a digital component in addition to research in a traditional paper-based archive. The course also includes an introduction to big data. The creation of vast textural databases means that it is possible not just to find information but to analyse and interpret in ways not previously available for teaching or for the general public. 

Students are encouraged to use databases of text such as Google Books or the National Library of Australia's Trove newspapers to generate graphs of word-use or phrase-use frequency, allowing them to see whether their findings accord with other evidence. New techniques for technology-based research allow aspiring historians to add depth to their assignments and make new discoveries. 

Professor Goodman recognises the value of innovative data analysis in his field. By providing students with these skills, he is ensuring they do too – and enabling Australia's aspiring historians to dig even deeper into the past.

Image: Professor David Goodman (supplied)