This assignment asks you to think visually and temporally about your early America topic. In this exercise, you will build at least two different types of visualizations and then reflect on the creation process, as well as the importance of visualization literacy.

For class Wednesday 6/9: 

  • Build a basic timeline with events relating to your early America topic using TimelineJS. For some of you, thinking about your topic as a set of linear events will be easy (if you’re focusing on an event, person, etc.). But for some of you who are thinking more thematically, it will be more challenging. But it’s still possible! More details about creating your timeline are below.
  • On our #general channel in Slack, post a public link to your timeline. 
  • In class on Wednesday, be prepared to talk to the class for 3 minutes about the process of creating your timeline. Tell us: 1) what events you selected and why you selected them, 2) what sources you used, and 3) any difficulties you ran in when creating your timeline.  

For class Friday 6/11: 

  • Build a basic chart visualization (line or bar graph) relating to your early America topic using Tableau Public. More details about creating your Tableau visualization are below.
  • Write a blog post about visualizations and post it to your website. Submit the URL of your post via Blackboard by 8am.
  • Your blog should include 3 sections:
    • Timeline visualization
      • Embed your TimelineJS timeline. (See step #4 in the TimelineJS tutorial video below.)
      • Cite the primary and secondary source(s) that your timeline events come from according to the Chicago Manual of Style conventions. 
      • Write a 4-6 sentence paragraph about your timeline. Explain your timeline. What topic is it about? Why are the events shown on your timeline the most important for understanding your topic? What is the biggest takeaway readers should have after viewing your timeline?
    • Tableau visualization
      • Embed your Tableau visualization. (See the Tableau tutorial video. Click on “How-To Videos” and then scroll down to #20 “Publishing and Embedding Vizzes.”)
      • Cite the data source(s) for your visualization. If you are using a dataset you created, cite the sources your used to create it. If you are using a dataset someone else made, cite their dataset, and also cite the source(s) they used. Remember to use Chicago Manual of Style conventions. 
      • Write a 4-6 sentence paragraph about your chart. Explain your chart. What topic is it about? What data is being shown? What is the biggest takeaway readers should have after viewing your chart?
    • Reflection
      • Write a 250-300 word reflection about visualizations. Use full sentences and paragraphs. Draw on the class readings and our discussions. Use examples.
      • What is a visualization? Are there different types? How can a visualization be misleading? What key elements should we check for when reading a visualization? How can visualizations enhance or help explain a historical argument? How do the timeline and chart you created help explain your topic?

Creating a Timeline with TimelineJS

  1. Select some important events about your topic that you think could go into a timeline, and write them down. You can focus on any aspect of your topic; you just need to be able to justify your choices.
    • Use the sources you’ve found previously to help you figure what’s important, or do some more research-–if you do more research, it is a good idea to put that research into Zotero as well.
    • Make sure you write down lots of details about your events, including who’s involved, when it was, why it’s important (and make sure you’re keeping track of how you know these things; citing your sources is important!).
    • Include no fewer than 5 and no more than 15 events.
  2. Using TimelineJS, build a timeline.
    • Watch this video tutorial by GMU professor Abby Mullen about creating your timeline (0:00–6:24).
    • For your Wednesday assignment, skip step 4 (embedding your timeline in a blog post). Instead of using the embed code listed on the Timeline.js website under step #4, use the share link. Post this link in Slack.
    • For your blog post, you will need to follow step 4 in the tutorial to learn how to embed your timeline in your blog post.

Creating a Chart with Tableau Public

  1. Select a dataset about your topic to use for your visualization. You can use the dataset you created in this class or you can choose to use a dataset made by someone else. Make sure it contains some sort or time element (Date, Year, Number of Years, etc.) AND a discrete (no range) variable and/or continuous (has a range) variable. Ex. Categorical variables (ship type) are discrete vs. a date range of 1700–1800 or the value of the stock market is continuous. Ideas of where to find datasets are in the #Links channel in Slack. Let the instructor know if you need help selecting an appropriate dataset.
  2. Sign up for a Tableau Public account. Use this software to create one basic line or bar chart.
    • Remember, you might have to edit your data source before you make a chart. You might have to change your field types (ex. “String” -> “Number”) or “convert to continuous” (ex. change from blue to green) to help tell Tableau about the type of data you are working with. This helps the program do a better job of figuring out how to set up your chart.
    • Be sure to include: a title, a legend, and accurate axis labels. The program will likely create tooltip or axis labels automatically for you. But don’t just assume they are fine. You will likely need to edit them and make sure they are accurate.
    • You can also play around with things like color and size of markers.
    • See the Tableau tutorial videos for help. Click on “How-To Videos” at the top. You might find videos #1, #2, #3, #7 and #11 most helpful.
  3. Publish your visualization so that it can be shared via link or embedded in your blog. Tableau’s tutorial video #20 “Publishing and Embedding Vizzes” will help you.