Module 8 Annotation

Herodotus, Thucydides, and Histories of War and Empire

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will apply their close reading skills to analyze a translated primary source text by Herodotus or Thucydides, the often-considered first historians.
  • Students will develop an understanding of the limits and affordances of distant reading as an approach, and the distant reading tool Voyant specifically, using the full text of the renowned works by Herodotus or Thucydides.
  • Students will compare results from the two reading approaches as part of historical analysis.
  • Students will make connections between assigned readings and primary source texts as evidence for historical scholarship.


As you experienced last week, close reading is best done when working with a small number of texts, or even just small passages within a text. But what happens when you want to understand the trends across a long multi-volume work, or even across an author’s entire body of work? 

One answer is the use of computational tools to parse texts into words and phrases; this methodology is often called distant reading. Computers can read in great volume, but with less nuance and perception than a human reader. The sweet spot, so to speak, is the way that Distant Reading and Close Reading can inform each other and lead to new or deeper insights into primary source texts.

We will use Distant Reading to identify patterns and outliers, and use those patterns and outliers as ways to ask new questions of the text for Close Reading. As Brandon Walsh and Sarah Horowitz put so clearly: “The work only begins once you have some results and a graph. You then have to figure out what elements are meaningful and what they might indicate. And the exploration very often takes you back to particular parts of the corpus that you want to read in more detail.”


  • Individually: complete the assigned readings/videos for this Module.
  • Check D2L for which text and excerpt is assigned to your group.
  • At least 1 group member should focus on Close Reading and at least 1 group member should focus on Distant Reading. Decide among your group early. Distant Reading is more technical and uses a web browser-based tool called Voyant. I’ve included step-by-step instructions for how to proceed with either Close Reading and Distant Reading in the Annotation Assignment Worksheet.
    1. If you are doing the annotation individually, you will do both the Close and Distant Reading. 
  • Read the Annotation Assignment Worksheet carefully. Be sure you understand what your group members are doing, even if you’re not going through the specific steps yourself. 
  • With your group members, answer all the questions in the Annotation Assignment Worksheet for your text and excerpt. 

Turn In by Friday, 11pm:

  • Post the completed answers to the Module 8 Annotation discussion board in D2L for the entire group. Please make sure all group members’ names are included with the post.  

Engage by Monday, 11pm:

  • Each student will read and engage with at least 1 other group’s source and post by following the “I notice, I wonder” format. 
    1. For example, “I noticed that the jade cong was valued for burials and rituals. Last week’s reading about rice cultivation described how populations settled around the Yangtze River. I wonder how far people had to go to find and mine jade, or if it was close by and part of the geology and environment that helped develop rice cultivation.” 
  • Use information from the assigned readings and videos to support your response. Take at least 15-30 minutes to carefully read the post, examine the source itself, and compose a thoughtful response that furthers our understanding. Quality comments build on the ideas and work of the original post. Avoid repeating or rephrasing what has already been said. 
  • You may reply to more than 1 post — your 1 best response will be what I grade for this assignment. 
  • Spread out responses among groups — don’t rush to post on the earliest posts you see. 

Evaluation Criteria

Clarity of Ideas: demonstrates completion of both close reading and distant reading activities, and a meaningful integration of the analyses with the assigned readings.

Completeness: All questions are fully answered. All quotations or paraphrasing from the primary source text or assigned readings are properly cited. Writing is grammatically sound and spelling is correct. Screenshot of Voyant dashboard is included with descriptive caption. 

Response: Clearly references assigned readings and/or primary source texts in the response. Poses a nuanced question or draws connections informed by careful observation and/or the readings.