March 27, 2013 – More Text Analysis

This week I finally got through the remaining edits to the historiographical essay and sent it off to Dr. Miller.  After that I finished the main content of the online exhibit but I still need to go back to it again.  And I did more text analysis.

As I mentioned last week, I had gotten back into the details about the burying or disappearance of slavery in Canada.  It’s very hard to prove the absence of something, but I have done what I can and made the corresponding edits.  I also did some text analysis after I sent off my last version of the essay to Dr. Miller and discovered an interesting (and supporting) pattern.  Using Google Book’s Ngram Viewer tool, I submitted a search for the term “abolition of slavery” within two corpuses.  One corpus is made up of British books and the other is of American books.  And both show books scanned by Google going back to 1600.  The interesting pattern shows that the phrase “abolition of slavery” was very spiky in American books, cropping up significantly after Britain abolished slavery, during the U.S. Civil War, during the 1890s, and during the American Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and 70s.  But by comparison, the British use of that same phrase over this same time period is both much less frequent and much less spiky.  It should be recognized that Britain doesn’t necessarily equate to Canada, but there is no Canadian corpus available in the Google tool.  I may add this graph to my essay, since it helps to show that the recognition of slavery in British history (and perhaps its colonies and dominions, such as Canada) was less apparent than in American history.

I finished adding the last item, Dr. Carrie Best, to my online collection, including the description and other metadata for the image.  And then I added that final item to the online exhibit, on the Conclusion page, and added the associated final exhibit text.  Now I just need to go back to update the exhibit with my final text analysis.

To that end, I did some more text analysis using Voyant.  Dr. Graham had suggested that I try importing all four of my main historiographical texts into Voyant at the same time, so that I could look at the use of words in the text as they changed over time.  I had some trouble pulling the larger texts in with the smaller ones and after trying for a while, I sent off my problem to Dr. Graham.  I was trying to insert the four URLs, and that worked, but only for the two smaller documents.  Dr. Graham saved all four as PDF files, then combined them in one big zip file, and imported the zip file.  Thank you, Dr. Graham!  So with that, I was able to do quite a bit more analysis.  I created graphs showing the use of certain words to demonstrate the changing style of writing over time.  The words I used were revolution, god, hero, my (to indicate the inclusion of the author’s self in the narrative), and law.  I also included several words related to each of these, such as, for revolution I included revolutionary and French revolution.  I have cut and pasted these graphs into my essay to help prove the point about changes in writing style.  I think it is worth noting that these graphs are only based on four documents, each of which has its own characteristics and point of view.  The Google Books Ngram Tool is better in the sense that it uses hundreds or maybe even thousands of books.  However, the Voyant tool has much more depth of analytical capability, such as being able to look at the use of words in the context of specific phrases, as well as many other powerful features.

So this week, which is my final week, I will add some of the graphs to my online exhibit in place of some of the word clouds, and I will begin to work on my presentation for the “Make History Matter” event.  I will also see if it makes sense to add the Ngram graph to the essay.  I may get more comments back from Dr. Miller for the essay.  One way or another, I will send the newer version of the essay to Dr. Miller which includes the graphs.


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