Reflecting on the Semester

One of the primary things I learned in this class was “tidy data”. I did not know about tidy data and I believe it will really help me in future research projects. I hope I will be able to present data in a more clear and concise way than I previously learned. At first, I had trouble understanding tidy data, particularly the computer codes used for tidying messy data sets. However, the reading by Hadley Wickham, entitled “Tidy Data” helped me learn not only what tidy data is, and how to create a tidy data chart, but how to tidy messy data.

The next thing I learned was the importance of primary data to historical research and the accessibility that technological storage and sharing and the internet has granted us in finding these primary sources. Primary data is important to historical research as history tends to involve many different narratives that becomes harder to trace as time goes on. While acknowledging different narratives is important to discussing history, particularly in the conflict analysis and resolution field (which I am in), it is important to trace these narratives and also separate narratives from facts. Primary sources help us do this.

Third, while I was always aware of the importance of ethics in conducting research, this can be especially important when researching history as many historical events include traumas and other sensitive issues that still effect living people today. Therefore, we must be especially conscious of this, as readings like the one by Andrej Zwitter, entitled “Big Data Ethics” teaches us. Zwitter discusses how big data can make it more difficult to be aware of when and how our actions may have unintended consequences. Additionally, with the use of digital resources, we must be mindful of copyrights and licensing when using data we find on the internet. This is also an ethical concern as we may want to give credit even when we are not necessarily obligated to (such as when copyright has expired or the person we are citing has derived – or stolen – their information from others without giving credit).

There are many other things I learned in this course, such as the importance of being mindful of my digital presence and security online. I learned many things new things I did not in the other courses I have taken throughout my four years as a university student that I will be able to utilize in the future as a graduate student and working professional.

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