From text to data to networks

From Text Interpretation to Data to Networks: A Two Part Workshop on Data Extraction and Visualization of Historical Sources



Part 1: From text interpretation to data

Many network analysis projects rely on somewhat ready-made sources for data; for example, email logs, questionnaires, church registers, letter exchanges and trade relations make it relatively easy to identify who is connected to whom and how. It is, however, considerably more difficult to extract quantifiable data from text. Some issues to consider here are: how can we bridge the gap between the depth of hermeneutics and data analysis? How can we systematize text interpretation?

This first workshop will address the above question and provide hands-on experience with the extraction of network data from a narrative through the use of methods developed in qualitative data analysis. Participants will work with a first-person narrative of a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and extract data using an existing coding scheme.

Part 2: Visualizing Networks

This second workshop will build on the data extracted during the first workshop and will provide participants with the technical skills to use entry-level software tools to visualize and explore social networks. Here are some of the questions that we will consider:

• how do visualizations change our perception of coded data?
• how can we translate hypotheses into data visualizations and which new questions can network visualizations raise?

We will also critically assess the added value of network visualizations, the underlying principles behind visualization layouts as well as network computations, and finally, their potential to mislead uncritical audiences.


None! These workshops are conceptualized as a gentle introduction to the topic and are meant for humanists with an interest in social network analysis. No technical skills in network visualization or software are expected or required.
In order to be better prepared for the extraction of network data and to gain some background knowledge about the case study, participants are encouraged to read the first 20 pages of Ralph Neumann’s autobiographical report about his survival in 1940s Berlin.


Teaching materials

Download the presentation slides

Social Network Analysis for Humanists Cheat Sheet

A write-up of this workshop is available on the Programming Historian website:


Part 1: From text to data

Text: Ralph Neuman, Memories from My Early Life in Germany 1926 – 1946

Spreadsheet for Group 1

Spreadsheet for Group 2

Spreadsheet for Group 3

Spreadsheet for Group 4

Spreadsheet for Group 5


Part 2: Network visualization



Other recommend SNA tools

Aggregated dataset

Sample dataset


Feedback form for Part 1

Feedback form for Part 2