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Digital Dissertation - Help, please!

I'm looking for some help from this lovely community. Although I need to write a traditional, text-only form of my dissertation for my institution, I am also planning to have a digital version. What I need help with is finding out how best to publish this in an accessible form for my committee and anyone else.

It has both a textual portion with images and hyperlinks that would do just fine in .pdf form, but there is also an app (currently in Javascript) that I want to embed along with a couple/few short video clips.

I could of course host the app separately and simply link to it from inside a .pdf. However, I would much, much prefer some kind of format or tool that allows me to seamlessly integrate them.

Do you guys know of anything that could do this? 

I'm also up for links to any recent discussion of how people are doing digital dissertations beyond just text online or text with hyperlinks. Thanks for any help!



Hi Emily-

One thing I would check out would be Scalar. It's under development by the Alliance for Networking Visual Culture at the University of Southern California. I'm using it for a class in the digital humanities at the University of Victoria taught by Jentery Sayers.  

Looking at their website, however, the catch is that they haven't yet released a public beta version. 

It sounds like the project you have in mind, though, is really better thought of as a multi-modal form of digital publication. I'm not sure that even Scalar can host Java apps though.

Have you considered doing something really radical and building it in WikiBooks, for instance? I'm currently helping to develop an electronic scholarly edition based there.  You may also want to check out the Stoa Consortium for Electronic Publishing, who apparently were formed with the intention of aiding just that. (I took a glance at your profile!). The Digital Classicist Blog also might be a good place to start trying to find out about this sort of venture. 

Good luck, and do please share what you find!


Hi Emily,

Have you looked up Omeka and Sophie yet?

I have not tried either of them, but I have seen couple demos from other people using them. You might want to check them out, maybe one of them fits your need.

I'd love to see the final product of your digital dissertation.



Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Iskandar,

Have you tried the services here. I found theme very useful, specially to those students that are very busy with their extra-curriculum activities.

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Hi Emily,
It's wonderful hear about your plans for digitizing a portion (or all?) of your dissertation. It would be so helpful if you could share your experience about it on HASTAC.

I've used Scalar too, and it's a fabulous way to integrate text and multimedia. However, as Daniel says, it's not readily available. You might write the developers at USC with a proposal for using it, if it really interests you.
I've tried Sophie and was not very happy with the results. Omeka might be a better choice, and I've heard they're trying to make it more amenable to text-based projects.

Good luck!


Thank you for the recommendations everyone. I'm actually surprised that what I was looking for seems mostly unavailable. Omeka and Sophie both appear to be highly useful tools, but I don't think they could do exactly what I need. Another problem with Sophie is that it requires itself to run its creations and that throws a hitch in accessibility for potentially techno-novice 'readers'.

Scalar looks like an awesome platform. I will very likely email them to see if it has any current or planned support for integrating apps. Even if it doesn't, it appears to be the best option for this kind of publishing right now.

I was looking at an interesting site the other day that interactively models Shakespearean narrative. (here: The author states that they use HTML5 for the visualization itself which is embedded in the page and followed by text and image. I know very little of HTML5 and am not sure if I could somehow enclose a JS app in a similar way or whether I could just re-create the app for HTML5 itself.

Any thoughts?



I would recommend PressBooks. It's a free digital monograph publishing application based on the WordPress architecture and it does a good job of towing the line between traditional and emerging forms of published scholarship. The folks at PB also seem very friendly and supportive and they are able to do some customizations for individuals. Another great feature of PB is it allows you to export to several formats including ePub, PDF, and XML. I'd be more than happy to talk more with you if you'd like. Good luck!


You'd definitely be able to embed media (images, videos, apps, etc.) with PressBooks, just as you're able to in WordPress.


Hi Emily,

Another option you might take a look at is using the Commentpress theme and plugin for WordPress developed by the Institute for the Future of the Book. This is the platform that Kathleen Fitzpatrick used to crowdsource the peer review process for her recent book.

Unlike Scalar, Commentpress maintains the hierarchical and uniderictional structure of a printed book. But as a WordPress-based platform, it if open source, publicly available, and quite customizable.

One word of caution—while WordPress is actively maintained, it is hard to tell from the Commentpress site whether the theme and plugin has been updated in the past few years. Others may have more information on this.



There's an updated version of CommentPress, created by one of the original founders of CP, called It's basically the same thing only slicker:


This discussion has been happening on Twitter as well and I just wanted to port over a few links from there for anyone else who may be reading this in hope of ideas.

Booktype: Mostly for e-books, but ability to set access levels is quite nice.

Treesaver: Currently for iPad, expanding to browser support. HTML5 framework.

CommentPress: A plug-in for Wordpress that allows annotation in the margins. Modern day scholia! [edit: see above! some crossover in posting.]


Will add more as/if they come in. Again, thank you everyone so much.


Just to clarify, you're specifically looking for content management software, right? And I assume this choice is because of the (usually sane) desire to avoid creating HTML and CSS yourself? 

There's always Drupal, of course, though it sounds like overkill for what you need. I'd avoid posting the text as a PDF unless you have a very compelling reason to do otherwise. From what you described as your needs (text, links, images, and javascript), just about any system that can build a modern website should work. Those are more or less the fundamental components of any website. You mention, however, an interest in setting access levels, which adds another layer: you need user account registration, management, and permissions, too.

So, it really comes down to user interface, technological maturity (unless you want to use beta/alpha software as an experiment), licensing issues, and long-term plans for the online version. Given all this, I'd lean toward Wordpress, too. 

But, I'd recommend creating a full list of all features you need/want. That will help you sift the choices better.


Indeed, I'd rather not create the HTML/CSS myself. The access levels is not really important - was just a nice feature of a tool that I'm sure would come in handy during the review process. I would plan to have the diss open on publication under some kind of CC license.

Yes, what I want to do does sound very much like a website.  I've used Drupal before many years ago and it was kind of a huge headache and I'd rather not get involved with that again. I was hoping there would be a specific tool with readers in mind (as opposed to visitors), mostly to potentially avoid the linear setup I think will result using Wordpress or something similar. This is one beautiful thing about Scalar - there are 'pages' but much of the organization allows for non-linear or alter-linear setups.

I may just have to tone down some of my ideas a little (I am no stranger to that!) and deal with a semi-traditional presentation but with app/alt-media integration.


Didapages : free but unfortunately only in French AFAIK and have some limitations for text formatting. Here's an example of the result.


Keebook : not free but easily exportable.


eXeLearning : free but less book-like. More of a simple web content manager wich can create self-contained files.



Anonymous (not verified)

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