Voyant

What is Voyant tools??

The simple answer is that a free online text analysis software. It’s a tool which greatly facilitates analysis of large text and offer a way to represent the data visually through a plethora of options to see how words are connected, where they are encountered and even the context of each occurrence.

Its only after using it and analyzing some large texts with it you realize its true potential, there are many ways to represent the same information the varying degree accuracy that it can be slightly overwhelming at first. You can start from something quite simple such as the most recurring words in the text but then very simply add an extra layer of complexity to your analysis by obtaining the most common terms collating with these and where in the text does it occur (and reoccur). Voyant then offers multiple ways to visualize and present these relations which can be further tweaked and personalized to personal preference or needs and can be easily exported for use in documents.

What are its limitations

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Firstly, we must look at what Voyant tools really is, an algorithm. All of it is just code, and thus it doesn’t have an actual understanding of language. To its credit though it does very well to automatically remove some words such as “the” or “and” from its analysis of texts as these would most certainly be the most common otherwise.  It does however treat words such as “America” and “American” as completely independent and separate words when you could argue that they should be treated as one and the same. In similar spirit the term “United Nations” should be treated the same as the term “UN” instead of two separate words for example. its there that lies one of the key weakness for Voyant, it doesn’t necessarily give context and its accuracy is by the simple comparisons that it can make.

Why is this useful and where / how do we use it?

Well if truth be told, Voyant doesn’t do anything new, you could (technically) do everything Voyant does by hand though it would extremely tedious and unpleasant. What Voyant gives us (as historians and analyst of texts) is tremendous Quality of life improvement in our disciplines. It does in seconds work that by hand would take hours if not days of tedious work and perhaps more importantly, it provides us with a variety way to visualize and present our findings. This is arguably the most crucial point as no matter how great your work or research is if you cannot present it in a meaningful way for your audience to understand you have not yourself or your work justice.

Another effective use of Voyant would be to use for finding a place to start to analyze the text as for some inexperienced historians (such as myself) or even extremely large body of text (religious or law) as starting the task can be difficult at times. This could also be useful when searching for a specific topics within a large such as for example Josef’s role in bible.

Final Blog Post

Voyant-Tools text analysis software is a program that is used in order to find the key words and patterns in large bodies of text. It can also be used when trying to compare multiple texts to one another. The ability to use this and other text analysis applications greatly helps historical analysis as you don’t have to take the time to read the large texts and can quickly identify what they have in common with each other. When you feed the texts through the software the results you get back are very easy to interpret for anybody using the application. Another helpful thing about this program is that it is very easily accessible and free for anyone to use. It can be used in order to compare literally any two texts to each other and relate them no matter how little you may have previously thought they would have in common. Although it is a very helpful tool for all kinds of research there are also some drawbacks to it. To begin with, fact that all the outputs are just the raw words make it impossible to understand the context that the words are being used in. For example, you could be comparing two different texts that have almost the exact same words used at almost equal frequencies. Based on these results, you would assume that both texts would be about the exact same thing and have almost identical content, but due to the program not taking into account the context of the words used they could have completely separate meanings based on how they were used. There is also the problem of a lot of the top words the program finds being words with very little significance to the text but that still come up a lot such as the name of the author, the word ‘the,’ etc.

The use of text analyzation software can be extremely useful when used in the right contexts, it also has its fair share of downsides and shouldn’t be used as the only means of analyzation.