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Digital Projects Toolkit

A guide for planning, implementing, and preserving digital scholarship projects.

A. Universal Design

Universal design is the process of creating products that are accessible to people with a wide range of abilities, disabilities, and other characteristics.


                                                                   design dictionary definition


At the Center for Universal Design at North Carolina State University, a group of architects, product designers, engineers, and environmental design researchers established the following set of principles of universal design to provide guidance in the design of environments, communications, and products (Connell et al., 1997). They can be applied to academic environments, communications, and products.

  1. Equitable Use. The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities. For example, a website that is designed so that it is accessible to everyone, including people who are blind, employs this principle.
  2. Flexibility in Use. The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities. An example is a museum that allows a visitor to choose to read or listen to the description of the contents of a display case.
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use. Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level. Science lab equipment with control buttons that are clear and intuitive is a good example of an application of this principle.
  4. Perceptible Information. The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities. An example of this principle being employed is when television programming projected in noisy public areas like academic conference exhibits includes captions.
  5. Tolerance for Error. The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions. An example of a product applying this principle is an educational software program that provides guidance when the user makes an inappropriate selection.
  6. Low Physical Effort. The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue. Doors that are easy to open by people with a wide variety of physical characteristics demonstrate the application of this principle.
  7. Size and Space for Approach and Use. Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of the user's body size, posture, or mobility. A flexible science lab work area designed for use by students with a wide variety of physical characteristics and abilities is an example of employing this principle.

B. Ethics, Copyright, & Risk Assessment


When designing your digital project, consider these ethical principles in your choices and design.


  • Do you have personal information on your site? If you have information that could be traced back to specific individuals, make sure they have consented to have their information used in your digital project. Additionally, if you plan to archive your digital project and have it continually accessible after the project is finished, ensure that individuals who have contributed to your project are aware of that as well. If you have personal information from yourself on your site, think about what it will mean to have that information accessible years into the future if you make it public on the web.


  • Is your content accessible to those who may be viewing it? Strongly consider ensuring that your digital project meets best practices for web accessibility standards, so that all who want to will be able to access the information it contains.

Citation/Credit Acknowledgement 

  • Will you be using other people's ideas, words, or images in creating your digital project? If so, it's important to properly credit them. While digital projects do not always need a full citation like a scholarly journal article would, consider hyperlinking to content you drew from, or mentioning the sources you used on an Acknowledgements page. 


When creating digital questions, you must consider both what you put in your digital project (e.g. the content) and what happens when you're finished creating it and are preparing to publish it online.


If you're using materials created by other people in your online scholarship (e.g. including paragraphs of a novel, using someone else's photographs or drawings), you need to consider whether you need permission from the copyright owner of those materials to include them in your own work. The following questions will guide you on whether you have permission to use the content.

Consult this spreadsheet for free music and other resources that you may use for your project.


Are You the Author, Copyright Holder or Creator?

Has a License Already Been Granted?

  • Has copyright holder already granted a license for you to include their work. Sometimes authors have already provided permission through grants such as Creative Commons licenses. The license, itself, will identify the terms of what uses can be made without needing to get the author's permission first. 

  • If a copyright holder has not already applied a Creative Commons license, he or she may be willing (often for a fee) to grant publication permission under specific terms and conditions.

Is the Work in the Public Domain?

  • Public domain works are open for use with no permission needed. Just because material is online, however, does not mean it's in the "public domain." Public domain instead refers to works for which copyright protections have expired, or works that were ineligible for protection.

Does Your Use of the Content Fall Under Fair Use? (Note: Fair Use is a Defense for Copyright Infringement)

  • The Four Fair Use Factors

  1.  ​​​​​​​The purpose and character of the use, including whether the intended use is commercial vs. for nonprofit educational purposes. Tip: Uses in nonprofit educational institutions are more likely to be fair use than works used for commercial purposes. This may work in your favor for publishing the project, but not necessarily a subsequent commercially-licensed database based on your project. 
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work. Tip: Republishing factual work is more likely to be fair use than incorporating a creative, artistic work such as a musical composition.
  3. The amount and significance of the portion used in relation to the entire workTip: Using smaller portions of a work is more likely to be fair use than larger portions, or portions that represent the "heart" of the underlying work
  4. Potential impact on the market for the originalTip: Uses which have no or little market impact on the copyright holder's ability to sell or license the original work are more likely to be fair. If the copyright holder offers licenses for uses similar to yours, use of the work without that license could harm the market for the license--weighing against fair use.

The library maintains two research guides related to Copyright:

C. Digitization

Before beginning your project, consider what digitization technology you will need, and make arrangements to access it. While Davidson has some scanning technology available in the library depending your digitization needs you may need to rely on entities outside the college to meet your digitization needs. If you are planning to archive your project, make sure you have touched base with the Davidson Archives about compatible file types.

Digitization Philosophy 
Digitization enables you to post and share print documents on your digital site, and also provides a back-up for physical items which could get damaged or misplaced. 
The Davidson Library has two scanners, located on the first floor, just past the Information Desk:
  • Zeutschel OS 15000 (overhead book scanner)
  • Book ScanCenter 5131 (flatbed book scanner)

Both machines have the capability to scan in color or black and white. They produce either PDFs or JPEGs that can be sent to a smartphone (via QR reader), a USB drive, Dropbox, Gmail, Google Docs, or Office365.

Scanning Specifications 
Ensure that the technology you choose for your digital project will be able to produce your desired file type and image resolution. Best practice for text is that the scan of the image is able to reproduce a document the same size as the original (1:1). Consider the needs of your project. The bigger images take more time to load, but will also convey more detail.
Scanning Basics & Quality Control

It's important to double-check the file format, image resolution, and file naming of your scans. Correct specifications can save you from accessibility issues later on. Several organizations provide scanning checklists you can borrow for your own scanning work, including the University of Melbourne and the University of Connecticut.

Storage space

Digital A/V files can eat up a lot of storage space, so estimate your storage needs, and make sure you'll be able to accommodate those, before beginning the digitization process. See the Sustainable Heritage Network document, Estimating Storage Requirements for Digital Audio.

Digitize In-house or Outsource?
Currently, the Davidson Library does not have A/V digitization technology available for use by the campus community, so outsourcing will be necessary for projects requiring A/V digitization. 
See the Audio and Video Guidance: Resources from the National Archives for free tools like file analyzers and metadata embedders, to use with your digitized A/V files.
What is Metadata?
Metadata is data about data. It provides descriptions for your data that enable it to be searched and located. 
Metadata Fields 
Common metadata fields include:
  • Title
  • Creator
  • Description
  • Format

See UCF Libraries Basic Metadata Fields for other common fields.

Controlled Vocabulary 
Controlled vocabulary consists of standardized words and phrases that can be searched across a system, enabling consistency and retrievability. The University of Texas Libraries have compiled a guide of controlled vocabularies for both general purpose and subject-specific use. If your digital project would benefit from controlled vocabulary, consider drawing from one of these existing examples.

D. Digital File Inventory & Documentation

File Naming Conventions & Best Practices
Decide on a file naming convention at the beginning of your project, for consistency and ease of retrieval. See Stanford Libraries guide on Best Practices for File Naming.
Electronic Records Organization & Best Practices

See the Wisconsin Historical Society Best Practices for Organizing Electronic Records for tips. While geared towards bigger projects, even smaller projects would benefit from the practices outlined in here, such as:

  • Centrally locating records in shared drives
  • Using a hierarchical folder structure 
  • Notes to document folder contents
Questions? Need help? Ask Us
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