Below are just a few suggestions for projects using the dime novels available on Nickels and Dimes, many of them appropriate for undergraduate students. These include writing a review, helping with bibliographic research, text mining, and developing classroom materials, like spotlights. We're always interested in hearing from students, instructors, and researchers to discuss how we can collaborate or help, so let us know what you need!
One of the best ways to contribute to dime novel research is to read and review a dime novel. Reviews help students and researchers by offering a guided interrogation of the text and pairing the text with other academic resources that help extract meaning and give context. They are especially helpful for dime novels, as the sheer number available in collections like Nickels and Dimes often make it difficult for researchers to know where to start.
Academic reviews are short works, and not full research essays. With that in mind, they should be approximately 800-1000 words long. Reviews should contain very little plot summary, instead focusing on what about the individual dime novel makes it an interesting text for study. While reading, the reviewer should consider what the original writer might have been attempting to do, whether they achieved it, and to what degree, but also what assumptions are made about the way things are, especially in regards to topics like gender, race, and class.
You're encouraged to spend some time exploring the collection to find interesting dime novels that you might want to read and review. Again, very little is known about the vast majority of these titles. To narrow your search, here are some topics that might be of interest: women heroes, women detectives, racially mixed peoples, people with disabilities, cross-dressing, temperance, slavery, American Revolutionary War, Civil War, Science Fiction.
Resources for Writing Reviews
- This review of Captain Volcano; or, The Man of the Red Revolvers contains reference to other works on dime novels, and evaluates what the author might have attempted to convey, and whether any portion of that might have been successful.
Learning "Scholarship as Conversation" by Writing Book Reviews (SPUR Spring 2019).
- In this article, the authors identify actionable practices to transform the process of writing book reviews from an undervalued, lone activity into a viable form of undergraduate research.
Writing Academic Book Reviews (Inside Higher Ed, March 2017).
- A short article about writing academic book reviews, including a basic outline that may be a useful guide for the beginner reviewer.
Submitting a Review
If you want to contribute a review, it can be published here on Nickels and Dimes as well as on the Edward T. LeBlanc Memorial Dime Novel Bibliography. You'll be paired with a dime novel scholar or staff on our project, who will edit your review for publication and provide feedback. Undergraduates are especially encouraged to submit reviews, but submission is open to all.
The Edward T. LeBlanc Memorial Dime Novel Bibliography collects publication and authorship information about dime novels and dime novel-adjacent materials. Much of the data on this site comes from the LeBlanc bibliographies, which were compiled over many years by long-tem editor of the Dime Novel Round-Up, Edward T. LeBlanc. While these are an incredibly valuable resource, converting them into an online database is extremely time-consuming work. They also contain some errors, omissions, and best guesses. The recent availability of digitized books and library catalog records sometimes make it possible to expand upon LeBlanc's original research and to resolve some of the questions he was unable to answer. Learn more about the bibliography here. Undergradutates, graduate students, faculty, and independent researchers may be able to design a specific project, or do more general research by contributing to this major bibliographic resource. To design a longer form project, please contact us.
Volunteers and researchers can request permission to edit the database directly. Start by examining the training manual to learn how to use and edit the database. Some of the bibliographic research opportunities include correcting missing and inaccurate parts of the existing database, completing data entry work from LeBlanc's research, and researching other resources to find missing issue titles, publication dates, and so on.
Volunteer to Help with Data Entry
Due to the huge scope of the LeBlanc bibliographies, the process of building this database takes a great deal of time. We welcome volunteers willing to help with the data entry process, either by transcribing data from LeBlanc's work or by indexing digitized periodicals to enrich LeBlanc's existing listings. To gain access to data entry tools, you will have to contact us and receive some training; for a preview of what the process looks like, see our training manual.
Filling Gaps in LeBlanc's Research
Some rarer and less well-known dime novel series are missing information in the LeBlanc bibliographies. If you spot an omission, first check the PDF-format LeBlanc bibliographies in case we have not yet had time to enter the relevant listing into the database. If the data is truly missing, it may still be possible to find it. By seeking information in Google Books, the Internet Archive, publisher catalogs, and library catalogs, you might be able to discover new titles and fill gaps. As with everything else, this is collaborative work, so please contact us for advice and assistance.
Text mining is a method of textual analysis that involves processing raw text and then applying statistical methods to identify patterns in that text. Methods of analysis include topic modeling, document classification, and named entity extraction, among others. These methods have been employed in the digital humanities to examine text at a distance by literary scholars, historians, and social scientists. To learn more about text mining, see Ted Underwood's Where to start with text mining.
Using the dime novel corpus and these methods, you might:
- Analyze an author’s style to identify the person responsible for writing a novel that has been attributed to a pseudonym or that has been incorrectly attributed.
- Examine the narrative shape of a dime novel and how similar or different it is to other narratives in the same series or genre.
- Train a computer to extract proper names and keywords and recognize genres. For an example of this approach, see the article "Text Mining and Subject Analysis for Fiction; or, Using Machine Learning and Information Extraction to Assign Subject Headings to Dime Novels."
We are always eager to collaborate with researchers and students on their text mining projects. Please send us an email to set up a time to do a research consultatiuon.
While full-text is available for every dime novel in our collection, we've also made a subset of this aggregated data available for larger scale text mining projects. This data consists of a separate text file for each dime novel, accompanied by metadata in a CSV file. The text files and metadata are keyed using the repository identifier. Click here to download the zip archive (135 MB).
Total novels: 1,609
Total pages: 78,390
Total words, excluding stopwords and noise: 13,875,024
Please note that this is uncorrected text, computer-generated using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). The quality of the OCR can vary significantly from title to title, depending on the condition of the item, typographical features of the novel (e.g. font style and size), and the scan itself. When possible, we have tried to improve the OCR quality through manipulation of the page images, but some pages still consist of few recognizable words. In order to assist researchers to make more informed decisions about what texts they use, a word and page count have been provided with each dime novel. The word count is calculated after removing punctuation, stop words (a, and, the, etc.), and any words not found in the Unix word list. N.B. that the corpus itself is still raw and unprocessed.
In addition to the sometimes-poor OCR quality, many dime novels are actually periodicals. A single issue of a series may contain multiple stories by different authors, which are sometimes serialized. Issues may also contain non-fiction, like news articles or advice columns, and advertisements. Often these features only take up a few pages at the end of an issue, but in some cases an issue might contain two complete dime novels.
If there are additional formats that would be useful for your research or if you have suggestions for how we can improve the quality of the corpus, please contact us.