Blogpost 4; Text Analysis using Voyant Tools.

The analysis of large bodies of text through the use of digital tools such as Voyant Tools is a new and largely unknown method of analysis to many historians. Integrating technology such as this into historical study would allow researchers to find patterns in their documents that they would have previously never noticed. For example in my own text analysis of two primary sources, the diaries of two men who witnessed the great fire of London, it was clear that references to the titles of other people such as Lord or Sir were the most common words used. Without doing a text analysis I would have never noted that those were used so frequently, as they are easy to ignore in order to get to the narrative of the event being described. Yet, with the text analysis, I was able to note the amount of importance that the men writing placed on the titles of people. If further text analysis was performed on more works of this period and similar repetitions of words were displayed then the results could indicate a larger linguistic pattern of that time and show the importance of titles and social standing to the society of that time and place overall.

Likewise, similar findings could be identified within other historical texts that would add a new context and understanding to the study of that time period. If one knew that titles of individuals were highly important to a society, the omitting of a title for an individual could then indicate a lower standing or show that the author was not in favour of that person.  References to specific places and people can be identified within seconds using Voyant Tools and thus saves the historian large amounts of time searching for specific connections between different words.

If however, the historian relies solely on text analysis tools to find patterns in their sources, they will never accomplish much research at all. Text analysis tools do not provide context to the words of a source and thus cannot tell the reader the importance of a word used at a certain part of a source. Text analysis tools are also not very useful on short sources, as they look for repetition and pattern amongst a text, the meaning of a small text with little repetition may be lost in text analysis when it could be important information.

Text analysis tools are useful to historians as a supplementary tool to research in order to identify important trends in linguistic patterns. Besides identifying trends in text otherwise being studied, I would not recommend text analysis tools to be used by historians. The traditional method of reading primary sources is best for understanding the content of the source and as such text analysis tools should only be used along with in-depth readings of sources to add to the understanding of the text.

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