Transcription Assignment


We will be working directly with excerpts from the diaries and letters of James Merrill Linn over the period February-April 1862. These documents are in manuscript form, which means that in order to rely on them for assignments in distant reading, close reading, and visualization we will need to transcribe them into electronic text files. This transcription work will be accomplished as follows:

  1. Each student will be assigned one page from Linn’s diary from the sections dated February 6-8, and April 16-19.
  2. In class on Monday 9/9 and on Wednesday 9/11 you will work in small groups as you each begin the puzzle of transcription and share your discoveries about Linn’s sometimes idiosyncratic handwriting.
  3. Outside of class you will prepare your transcribed page and the attendant components (see “Assignment Instructions”, below).

Assignment Objectives:

  1. Develop an understanding of how the transcription of a material document (in digitized form) affects the researcher’s connection with that document, and how the precision of that transcription provides the foundation for all future engagement with that transcribed work.
  2. Establish a collaborative work environment in which researchers rely upon and enhance their own accurate work process through sharing of and assisting one another with complex transcription challenges.

Assignment Instructions:

As described in “Transcription (a beginning)” and in class,

  1. Open your assigned digital image in your computer’s image viewer (Preview for Mac, Windows Media Viewer for PC). The zoom and scroll functions of the image viewer will help you to obtain the most legible image possible.
  2. Open a blank text editor file (either TextEdit in Mac or NotePad in PC – avoid using Microsoft Word if you can, as it may introduce unnecessary complications like smart quotes and long dashes into your transcription that will have to be stripped out later).
  3. Put the image and transcription document side-by-side in your screen
  4. Make sure that you end each transcription line at the same point where the line ends in the digital image (this will help you to keep track of the transcription process – especially as you find yourself trying to make sense of words that are not immediately recognizable.)
  5. As you work in your file, make sure to save your progress regularly; label your file with the Diary number and .txt file extension (for instance, Diary27.txt)

Each completed transcription assignment must include the following elements:

  1. Transcription of one page (digital image) from Linn’s diary (maintaining original spelling & punctuation). Your transcription text file should be submitted via email attachment to Professor Jakacki.
  2. A 200-word reflection on the transcription process, along with a screenshot of the transcription process (digital image and transcription file side-by-side) demonstrating the challenges encountered while transcribing the page. The reflection with screenshot should be uploaded as a post to the course website using the Category “Transcription.”


Transcriptions will be assessed on

  1. Accuracy
  2. Legibility
  3. Adherence to the Bucknell transcription guidelines
  4. Articulate written and visualized reflection of the transcription process

This assignment is worth 7% of your course grade

Grades will be assigned as follows:

  • A Mature, well-organized, insightful examination that is visually appealing.
  • B Satisfactory, generally well-presented, interesting examination.
  • C Developing approach that would benefit from more consideration of argument, audience, mechanics, and/or design.
  • NS Work not submitted.

Assignment due date:

Monday, September 15 by 11:00 pm

Note: I will compile all of your transcribed files into one master file.