Bodies and Structures

A Guide to Student Research Projects

Contribute to Bodies and Structures

We encourage student groups to build a Bodies and Structures module around an interesting spatial-historical primary source. Projects can contain a small number of pages (e.g., one main page and the media objects and annotations that apply to it) or a larger number of structured pages and paths.

Once the students have built a module, have them complete the metadata and plan out the tags. Encourage students to suggest new tags, or revisions to current ones (and to make an argument as to why these changes are important).

Find the Bodies and Structures Style Guide here. Please do write to David and Kate to share your class modules! We hope to be able to incorporate excellent student work in the next iteration of the project.

Create a Bodies and Structures-type book out of student projects in your own classroom or department

Use the Bodies and Structures model to take a student research seminar to a new level of collaboration and conversation. Rather than have students write traditional research papers, have them produce modules individually and then link them together into a conceptual map (what we call the Tag Map). The key here is to bake collaboration into the process from the very beginning.

Build modules in working groups

Break the students into small working groups. These groups should meet regularly during the module construction phase of the project to discuss and troubleshoot the research / writing process and working with Scalar.

Establish the Crossings

Once the students are nearing complete first drafts of their modules, work in small groups to propose possible Crossings for the Tag Map. Have each group write their suggestions on post-it notes and post them on the wall. Discuss as a large group how you might distill these options into a workable number of crossings. Ask students to revise their own modules to speak more directly to two or more of the proposed Crossings. Meet again in two weeks to revise the Crossings.

Create subtags

Students should read all of the modules in one working group that is not their own. Then, break the students into groups—one for each Crossing. Have them brainstorm 5-7 possible subtags for that concept and then pare it down to 2-3. Draft a one-sentence description of each subtag.

Refine and revise

Continue to work in groups to refine the conceptual structure and individual modules.

Polish for publication

Distribute responsibility for different aspects of the final production. For example, appoint a Master Style committee to define citation style and metadata fields. A Copy Editing committee can review individual pages, while a Style Compliance committee can double check modules for consistent style. A Front Matter committee can set up images and text for the site's opening pages.


Please send Kate and David a note. We'd love to hear about your Bodies and Structures project!

How to Scalar

The Scalar 2.0 User's Guide.

A research guide for making a Scalar book, from the librarians at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Examples of Scalar in the Classroom

A presentation from ann cong-huyen on how to use Scalar in a classroom.

The Alliance for Visual Networking Blog's interview with Dr. Harriett Green and Dr. Anita Say Chan, who built a student research assignment around Scalar.

A HASTAC post on using Scalar to publish research.

A thoughtful discussion of how such assignments foster evolving, collaborative inquiry while challenging traditional forms of exposition. Dwayne Dixon, “Imagining the Essay as Digital Assemblage: Collaborative Student Experiments with Writing in Scalar,” prompt 1, no. 1 (2017), at

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