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PhD+ Workshop – Using Generative AI for Research in the Humanities

January 11 @ 2:00 pm - 3:30 pm  |  Humanities 1, Room 210


This informal, practical workshop will survey how generative AI tools like GPT-4 and Claude can be used in humanistic research. Large Language Models (LLMs) such as these have a well-documented tendency to “hallucinate” information when prompted in certain ways. But if employed thoughtfully and with an awareness of their limitations, they represent a significant new tool for researchers in the humanities. For instance, GPT-4 is able to translate and summarize text far more accurately than the previous state of the art — and crucially, it can do so even when presented with imperfect, archaic, or flawed transcriptions, such as in the case of text pulled from photographs of archival documents or digitized premodern books. GPT-4 is also able to turn spreadsheets or other forms of quantitative data into visualizations and perform surprisingly sophisticated analysis of visual sources, not to mention basic transcription of handwritten texts. Finally, new AI speech recognition tools like Whisper now allow for rapid transcription of oral history interviews and other recordings. We will cover the specific use cases of translation, summarization, transcription, and image analysis with an eye toward the specific ways that AI can contribute to the research goals of participants.

Please come with an internet-connected device, preferably a laptop, and sign up for both ChatGPT and Claude before the workshop (both are free). Suggested reading:


Prof. Breen blue skyBenjamin Breen is an associate professor of history at UC Santa Cruz interested in the history of globalization, science, drugs, and the long-term impacts of technological change. My book The Age of Intoxication (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019) explores how drug users and sellers in the British and Portuguese empires helped to shape imperialism, global trade, and scientific practice in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It won the 2021 William H. Welch Medal from the American Association for the History of Medicine and is available in hardcoverpaperback, and ebook formats. Trained as a historian of the early modern era, I am currently working on two book projects (one a cultural and intellectual history of experimental drug researchers during the Cold War, another on the entanglements between colonialism, climate change, and the concept of magic between 1600 and 1900). 

About the PhD+ Workshop Series
Please join us for the eighth year of PhD+ Workshops, hosted by the Humanities Institute. We meet monthly, over lunch, to discuss possible career paths for PhDs, internship possibilities, grants/fellowships, work/life balance, elements of style, online identity issues, and much, much more.

This event will be held in-person in Humanities 1, Room 210. 

Please RSVP using your UCSC email address:


January 11
2:00 pm - 3:30 pm
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Humanities 1, Room 210
1156 high st
Santa cruz, CA 95060 United States
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