Published Date

June 5, 2017

Resource Type

For the Classroom


Digital Methods, State & Local (US)

AHA Topics

Teaching & Learning


United States

This resource is part of the AHA’s Teaching with #DigHist series.


By Lindsey Passenger Wieck (St. Mary’s Univ.)

In this assignment, students use San Francisco phonebooks to create usable datasets. Feel free to substitute the phonebooks with other primary sources appropriate to the content of your course. In this example, students will create a list of businesses by category.


  • To increase proficiency and comfort at analyzing primary sources and practicing using the digital tools we learned about in class.
  • To engage with the public, including your peers, in offering thoughtful responses to historical materials.
  • To gain experience and comfort in blogging and digital communication.
  • To provide regular opportunities for synthesis, writing, and historical analysis in the classroom.


Draft a blog post to share a dataset you created using the methods we learned in class. In this blog post, you will link to your dataset and describe its contents, its significance, and its potential for mapping. For help with this, refer back to this tutorial on Gathering Data. Your audience for this assignment is a public audience that includes your peers in this class. Your post needs to include:

  • A link to your dataset:
    1. Your data set needs to include at least 50 items (remember more items will give you more to work with in your map you will make!) drawn from one of the San Francisco phonebooks.
    2. Each item needs a name of business, an address, and GPS coordinates included (at minimum). If you have addresses from different phonebooks, or addresses from different categories, you should also include a field that designates these features.
    3. Add your dataset to our class’s cloud folder. SAVE IT AS A .CSV. Please save as YOURLASTNAME_DESCRIPTION (e.g. Wieck_hospitals.csv).
    4. Obtain a link to your dataset from the shared cloud folder.
  • A short text piece: (Word Count: 250-400 words) that addresses the following in any order that makes sense to you:
    1. The topic of this dataset: How did you choose the data you selected? What do you hope it will show? What types of questions might it answer?
    2. Possibilities for visualization: What type of map/s do you think would maximize its possibilities for visualization and/or exploring questions you’d liked answered?
    3. Shortcomings / Inadequacies of Dataset: Are there any potential shortcomings or inadequacies you might find in this dataset? (e.g. not enough data; data lacking information or certain fields; data that could not be geolocated, etc.)
    4. Workflow: Provide a short description of your process in creating this dataset. How did you decide what data to gather? How did you gather it? (You don’t need to detail your process step-by-step like in our tutorials, but rather provide a brief summary of the actions you took)
    5. Bibliography/Citations: Be sure to cite the sources of your dataset.
    6. References: (If needed) Use inline references (Author date, page number) (e.g. Johnson 2000, 208). Include a bibliography of sources at the end using the Chicago Manual of Style.

For more on using Carto in the classroom, read Lindsey Passenger Wieck’s post on AHA Today, “Blending Local and Spatial History: Using Carto to Create Maps in the History Classroom.”