Subject Guides

Digital Scholarship

A guide to digital scholarship tools, methods, and best practices across the digital humanities and data-driven fields

Digital Storytelling

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling is the creation of digital narratives using multi-media approaches and digital tools. Digital storytelling is tied, in part, to the growing number of accessible digital tools and spaces making it easier for people to create and share their stories using these methods without needing to spend much on creating or publishing content. 

Digital storytelling is an experiential tool in the classroom encouraging students to create hands-on projects for a variety of audience members and consider the broader importance and implications of making scholarship public and widely accessible. Digital stories do not need to be webpages, although they often are, but can include short films/videos, podcasts, PowerPoint presentations, comics, interactive fictions and any other form of story told through or incorporating digital methods. 

The rest of the tabs in this section give some additional information about how to create a digital storytelling project working through each of the steps on the project lifecycle: 

Digital Storytelling project lifecycle

Project Proposal

You may already have an idea of what you want your story to be or you may be working through a list of topics or only have a very broad concept in mind. Wherever you are in crafting your idea you'll want to narrow it down as much as possible. A narrow scope will help focus your story and ensure that your project doesn't grow too big to complete. 

Guelph's Digital storytelling libGuide gives an overview of what digital stories can do: 

  • Explain a concept
  • Reflect on a personal experience
  • Retell a historical event
  • Make an argument or share a perspective

And the types of digital stories: 

  1. Personal Narratives
  • The most popular form of digital storytelling, personal narratives are stories that recount events in one's life.
  • Used to reflect on where we have been, what we have learned, moments of change within our lives, and to illustrate our journeys of discovery.
  1. Historical Documentaries
  • Stories that examine dramatic occurrences that help us understand events in the past.
  • Requires conducting research and synthesizing a large amount of information into a tight narrative that forms an argument or presents a perspective.
  1. Content Area Stories
  • Stories that inform or instruct the viewer about a particular concept or practice.
  • Delivers instructional content in areas such as culture, mathematics, science, language arts, medicine, and more.

These categories may be helpful when creating your own proposal. Check out the page on project proposals for more of a breakdown on that process.

You'll also want to consider what the final medium of your story will be. Are you creating a website? Data visualization/dashboard? Podcast/interview? Or something else? Once you know what you want to tell and how you might want to tell it you can learn more both about your topic, but also about the tools you might need to create your story. 

Note: The next 'step' in the process is research, but you may find it helpful to go back and forth between step one and two to narrow down your focus to the story you want to tell. While it is presented as a step-by-step process many of these steps are iterative, meaning, you may find yourself going back and forth between all of them a few times before moving onto the next step. This is completely normal and will help you create a richer and deeper story in the end. 

Researching for digital storytelling

Depending on your project you may be researching more about your project as well as more about the tools that would be best to use to create your story. 

Digital Storytelling examples

University of Houston's Video Series 

Reviews in DH project registry (not all are digital storytelling, but many are)

Check out the samples from KnightLabs suite of tools (click on the tools under the 'storytelling' heading and then view their 'example' projects)

Digital Storytelling tools 

Read through the 'Creating digital projects' page in this libguide to learn more about the tools we have on campus

KnightLab's suite of tools

Podcasting tools




Writing a script

Even if you are not making a video or doing a podcast you should write out a rough draft of the story you will be telling with your research and project. Whether you are telling a personal story or a story based on research you are doing the drafting principles remain the same. 



What is the main takeaway and purpose of your story? Why would(or should) people care about it? 

What are the key details about the story that are the most important to include? 



Create a storyline, or plotline, that has a logical flow to it. Working with and creating a well structured story will help you keep your audience's attention and also help you fit in the key details of the story you are trying to tell and put them in the best order to get your main point across. 

Common story structures



Before writing out your first draft consider the length of your final story. Digital Storytelling videos are usually short 3-4 minute films, but maybe you are creating a larger project. Even within a larger multi-page site consider ways to break your content down into multiple smaller stories. If you are creating an oral history based project treat each interview like its own story or build smaller 'exhibits' based on the larger digital collections you may be working with. Have a large dataset and dashboard of visualizations you are sharing? Create one infographic based on the key takeaways. Any way that you decide to break down your project into smaller stories should still capture your mission and purpose for the project and maybe even serve as a guide for those in your audience interested in exploring the bigger set of data you may have (if you are sharing it). 


Now you are ready to create a first draft and maybe a second and third one as well!

Storyboards and wireframes

A storyboard is where you will take your script and break it down into boxes that coincide with either: the scenes you want to capture on your video, what and how you want to pair your images, maps, data visualizations or sound with your written content or otherwise plan out where and how the parts of your storyline will flow together capturing some of the details involved in digital storytelling. 

Read more about how to storyboard using these resources: 

What is a wireframe? A beginners guide

Create Storyboards

Atlanta University's Lib Guide on Storyboarding

Here are some useful tools you can use: 

PowerPoint - use each slide as a part of the story 

Pen and paper - not everything has to be done digitally and planning on paper can be easier to add, edit, or rearrange

Creating Media

the links below will take you the listed tool's website and download instructions. If you are looking for advice on which tool might work best you, wondering how to get started or need some custom tutorials/workflows for your project request a consultation with a Digital Scholarship Librarian. 


iMovie an easy and basic video editor free for all MAC users

Lightworks is a lighter video editor with all the features you need to create basic videos 

DaVinci Resolve is a free video editing software with robust features and plenty of online tutorials. It has a free version as well as a paid studio version. 


OcenAudio is a free and easy to use audio editing software if you need to make simple cuts and edits using only one audio file

Audacity is a free and open software that is great for beginners, but easily scales for anyone looking to advance their skills

Image Editing 

Canva is best for creating projects and templates with images and text, but it is adding new photo/image editing tools as well that can help make quick adjustments to some some media files

Fotor is a free and quick tool to use if you need to rotate, adjust the brightness or perform similar actions on your images 

Gnu Image Manipulation Program  Is a free and open source tool with a robust set of image editing tools making it comparable to Adobe's Photoshop. Alternatively you may use Glimpse, which while no longer being updated, is still compatible with most machines and was created in response to the developers of the Gnu Image Manipulation Program's refusal to rename their software. 

Finding Media 

Center for Learning and Teaching

Binghamton's Center for Learning and Teaching (CLT) has created a list of resources to find open source and free media that you can use in your digital projects. Visit CLT's media page

Using Google 

You can also search for creative commons media right in Google. 

Step one: go to google images and enter your search term 

Step two: Select the 'Tools' button under the search bar 

Step three: Select the drop down menu for 'Usage Rights' 

Step four: Select the 'Creative Commons Licenses' option in the drop down menu and Google will adjust the search to only show images that have a CC license attached to them. 

Step fine: You will need to click on the image you want to use to see which CC license it has and use it in your project accordingly. Each CC license has different rules and parameters for how the content can be shared and you'll need to make sure you are following those rules. 

a google search for llamas


Tips and Tricks

Finding the perfect image, sound, or video can be hard especially when you have a particular vision for how it would fit into your research project or narrative. It can be even more limiting to find images that have a creative commons license or are in the public domain. The following tips and tricks offer suggestions for how to move forward when you are stuck looking for media. 

Reach out to creators 

If you find media you'd like to use, but it is copyrighted or doesn't have a CC license on it  you can reach out to the owner of the item, or the owner of the site you found it on, and ask permission to use it. Sometimes, you may be asked to pay a fee, but sometimes they will give you permission to use the item for free if you explain that is it for research and why you want that particular item. Always be respectful and explain your intent when reaching out to creators about using their media. 

Lateral thinking 

If you have an image or sound you really want to use in your project, but can't find an open source version of it try to think creatively about what you are trying to achieve with that media item. 

Example: You are writing about a famous painter, but their work is still copyrighted and you can't find an image of their paintings with a CC license. Maybe you can find a picture of the artist themselves to use instead (maybe even a picture of them painting!) 

Or: Maybe you are creating a project about train stations in Japan in 1950 and you can't find any images or video with a CC license with the stations you are writing about. Maybe there are images of the trains that ran, train maps, schedules, conductors, etc that you could use instead. 

Some projects may not be appropriate for this type of approach, in which case reaching out to creators may be the best solution. 

Rethink Perfection 

It can be hard to move forward on a project without *the* perfect image or video especially if one exists, but it is under copyright and the creator wants you to pay $$$ to use it. This is especially true in digital storytelling where we rely on images and media to help tell our story and engage our readers. However frustrating it is, the story you are telling and the work you are doing is still important and where you may not be able to find images, sharing quotes, examples, and stories from you research can be just as engaging and there may be generic images (as appropriate) you can use to help bolster the feelings of the story. 

Example: a research project about rain stations in Japan in the 1950s may not have any CC images you can find that are relevant. But, you could add pictures of smoke (like from a smokestack), train wheels, train tracks, etc. as well as use fonts and colors that evoke the 'feel' of 1950's Japan in an authentic and appropriate way. 

Make Your Own

If you have the time you may want to consider making your own media for your digital project. This might include taking your own pictures of locations you visit or people that you are interviewing. Whether or not creating your own media will make sense and be appropriate for your research will depend on the project and topic you are working on. If you are curious about creating your own media and have questions, check out the tools listed in the above sections or set up a consultation with the Digital Scholarship team! 

Putting it all together

At this point in the project you should already know the platform or software you will be using to put your final project together and (if related) publish it on. If you are creating a website or any kind of file that needs to be shared digitally and publicly you will need to choose a platform or service that can house the different types of media you have created. 

Check out the section of this libguide on Creating Digital Projects to learn more about that process!

steps to digital project creation imagined as a staircase

Sharing Digital Projects 

A benefit of digital storytelling that is often highlighted is being able to share and disseminate research and stories to a wider audience than may otherwise be able to access it. 

two people sharing ideas

However, if you are working on a community project such as a community archive or oral history project the members of that community may not want their stories to be told on a public website and may even suffer adverse affects from the attention a public story can bring. The resources below may be helpful in considering and creating a careful approach to deciding on creating a publicly accessible digital project that includes sensitive stories. 


The Right to Be Forgotten Ashley Nicole Vavra 

Toward a Survivor-Centered Approach to human Rights Archives: Lessons from Community-Based Archives Michelle Caswell

Archive of Hate: Ethics of Care in the Preservation of Ugly Histories Chelcie Juliet Rowell and Taryn Cooksey

Moving Toward a Reparative Archive: A Roadmap for a Holistic Approach to Disrupting Homogenous Histories in Academic Repositories and Creating Inclusive Spaces for Marginalized Voices Lae'l Hughes Watkins



Taking time at the end of a project to reflect on the process is important to consider what worked, what didn't and what you might do differently next time. If you are working with collaborators this time can also be important to check-in with your partners at the end. 

Questions that you might ask: 

Did the project go as expected? Why or Why not? 

If I started over today, what would I do differently? 

What is my plan for the project now that it is published? How will I achieve those goals? 

What can I take form what I learned from this project and apply to future projects?