Textual Portraits: Using Word Clouds as an Analysis Tool for Digitized Texts
Word cloud of the Lecompton Constitution with annotations regarding slavery created for presentation.
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Digital collections of textual material have become rich repositories for primary source materials. However, dense collections of digitized text can prove daunting to patrons seeking to access and analyze the documents contained within them. This presentation will discuss how word clouds may be used as an effective tool to allow students or patrons to compare and analyze digitized texts. Word clouds are a form of data visualization performed on free text, in which the structure of a document is broken down, and a "cloud" of the words contained in the document is generated wherein the size of the words in the cloud is determined by the frequency of their appearance within the original document. This presentation will provide an explanation of word clouds, demonstrating how to generate a word cloud utilizing Wordle, a freely available online word cloud generator. This presentation will also discuss how word clouds generated from key texts in a digital collection may be utilized for promotional purposes, in order to illustrate or draw patron's attention to particular a particular document or documents within a collection. Finally, using a variety of examples, this presentation will demonstrate how word clouds may be used to assist patrons and students in analyzing and comparing digitized texts or bodies of texts, in order to both facilitate discussion and encourage further exploration of digital collections by students or patrons.
A Presentation given at the Inaugural Digital Humanities Symposium at Kansas State University, February 27-28, 2015
- Shonn Haren