Research database enters testing phase

Author: Kevin Fye

csthrtestingstoryA page from the research tool in development shows the side-by-side display of two documents, one from the body of Catholic social teaching and the other an instrument of international human rights law. Users may choose to display full documents, or paragraph-level targeted results for comparison.

CCHR is moving forward with the testing phase of its new human rights research database. The online tool will be put through its paces by faculty advisors and graduate students at Notre Dame and across the country.

Designed to bring documents of Catholic social teaching into dialogue with instruments of international human rights, the database is being developed with an unprecedented depth of textual analysis by project partner, The Center for Digital Scholarship at the Hesburgh Libraries. Users will have the ability to search and compare documents from both disciplines simultaneously, encouraging the discovery of both divergences and convergences in language and meaning.

Innovation is at the heart of the project, both as a tool of interdisciplinary study and as a data archiving technology. Laurie McGowan, Digital Project Manager for Hesburgh Libraries, explains the significance for their overall mission. “Hesburgh Libraries Web & Software Engineering Unit has developed a tool, Honeycomb, as part of a strategic initiative to facilitate web display of digital exhibits and collections,” she explains. “The CCHR project provides a proof of concept opportunity, allowing us to demonstrate the ability to merge several collections into a single user interface, the ability to inject text analysis features into the search function, flexibility in metadata assignment and configuration, and much more.”

This next phase in the project’s development is key to ensuring an innovative research tool, explains CCHR Project Manager Christina Leblang. “Testing will span the fall semester and involve not only feedback from faculty, staff, and students in general but will also include faculty testing in the classroom setting and the commissioning of comparative research papers whose content will be generated through use of the database,” says Leblang. “These unique approaches to testing will allow us to enhance the database as a cutting edge research tool.”

The Catholic Social Teaching/International Human Rights database project has received support from the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. More information on the project can be found here.