Practicum: Google N-Gram

An Easy and Unique Research Tool

Google NGrams Home Page

Google N-Gram is a search engine that allows users to explore words or phrases that appear in books ranging from 1800-2019. Users have the option to change the language and dates they are searching within. Results are shown on a graph, providing users with a visualization of the frequency a word or phrase has been used over time. The case sensitivity can be altered as well as the measurement of the frequency by percentage.

Searching “Malcolm X,” from 1950-2019 in American English gives us the following results. This search shows that in American English literature, Malcolm X was at peak popularity in 1970, 1995, and 2012.

Users can also combine words and phrases to get advanced results. For example, searching “Malcolm X, Black Power,” gives us the following results showing the trends of both subjects in comparison to one another.

Both subjects follow a similar trend initially, however, “Malcolm X” spikes in the early 1990’s and goes back down in the late 2010’s, while “Black Power” steadily increases. After being presented with the graph, users can scroll down and choose from a selection of books organized by groups of dates.

Clicking on “1971-2006” for Malcolm X provides us with an abundance of books on Malcolm X published during that time period. Google N-Gram is a great resource for anyone researching a topic (or topics) who wants to know when that topic(s) was the most popular. Whether you are a seasoned researcher, or just getting started, Google N-Grams provides users with an easy and unique option.

Practicum: TIME Magazine Corpus of American English

What is it?

TIME Magazine Corpus Home Page

The TIME Magazine Corpus of American English is an online resource that allows users to search through 100 million words of text in roughly 275,000 articles of TIME Magazine from 1923 to 2006. The TIME Magazine corpus is part of a larger corpora of English created by Mark Davies, a professor of linguistics. It is primarily used as a research tool for users to locate words, phrases, and grammatical constructions, and see how American English has changed over time.

Getting Started

The website offers extremely helpful information for first time users on the home page and under the “Tour” tab. Tips on how to effectively search through the corpus and utilize all of its functions can be accessed in these locations. After registering for an account, users can go to the search tab and begin their research.


Once a word or phrase is submitted to the search engine, the results will show up under the “Frequency” tab. Here, users are provided with numerical information and a visual representation of how many times that word or phrase has shown up in TIME magazine since 1923. For example, searching the word “Annapolis,” shows us that TIME magazine mentioned it 783 times, most frequently during the 1940’s through the 1960’s.

“List” Search Option
Specialized Search Options

Users can also specialize their search. For example, using the “Chart” option shows the total frequency for each decade with a bar graph enabling users to visualize the popularity of a word in TIME. Another option for searching is “Collocates,” which allows users to see what words show up frequently near the word that was searched. There is also a search option to “Compare,” words and their frequency with other words. Finally, there is a “KWIC,” (Keyword in Context) option, which allows users to see words that occur directly to the left, and/or right of the word that was searched.

“Chart” Search Option
“Collocates” Search Option
“Compare” Search Option
“KWIC” Search Option


Once all of the results are shown, users can click on a date they want to see, and are taken to the “Context,” tab which shows a glimpse of how the article is using the word that was searched. For example, here we can see that “Annapolis,” was mentioned in an article written on December 12th, 1950, explaining that after 254 years, St. Johns College will be accepting women applicants for enrollment.

This free resource is a fantastic research tool for people interested in a particular subject, or simply the ways American English has changed over time. Users have the option to complete simple searches, or dive even deeper to explore the ways that words are used on their own, or in conjunction with other words. This varying level of sophistication makes it an accessible tool to a wide range of users.

Meet Evelyn Baldwin

Humans are complicated creatures, so it seems silly to try and introduce myself solely based on my academic career. Instead, here are a few of the major puzzle pieces that make up Evie: I am a book hoarder and am constantly buying books and rearranging my bookshelves, my self preservation flies out the window when I see a cute animal, and movement of any kind is the cure for any blues.

I envy my peers for knowing what they wanted to do their whole life. Until I was halfway through my undergraduate degree in English Literature and Language I had no idea what my future would look like. A spur of the moment decision to Minor in History to fill up some extra credits led me to meet the amazing Professor Matelski who changed how I looked at the world. From there it was a whirlwind of learning that public history existed and realizing that I could bridge the gap between my love for literature and my need to constantly learn.

Professor Matelski introduced me to Digital History during an interdisciplinary class co-taught by an English professor and the language of Voyant and Giphe became ingrained in my vocabulary. Up until now, I have used these tools for large text based analysis, such as creating a corpus and analyzing word association for my thesis, but I am excited to learn about other avenues for Digital History. The world has already shifted to digital platforms and I can not wait to learn all of the ways history can be approached online.

Exploring in Greece

Introduction: Sherrell Daley

Hi! My name is Sherrell Daley and I am a first year MA Public History student at American University. I am from Brooklyn, New York and I received my bachelor’s degree in History at Allegheny College. I studied a variety of historical topics during my undergraduate career, but the topic that interests me most is Modern U.S. and Urban history. In junior year, I decided that I did not want my work to be only seen in academia, so I decided to take the public history route. Also during my junior year, I was able to curate and archive my own exhibit, which made me gain a passion for curatorial work. And now I am here!

In the MA Public History program, I hope to gain more valuable knowledge of practical history beyond academia. I am excited to get practical experience that I can use throughout my career as a public historian. I hope to learn more about public history and how we as historians can make museums more accessible and enjoyable for everyone, not just the select few. In the future, I hope to get my PhD in history, so I can become a curator in a museum that displays Modern Urban History (particularly the Museum of the City New York, but any cool museum will do.) I would also like to incorporate museum education with my curatorial work to make museums more visitor friendly. Completing this course, I would like to learn more about digital history and how to produce historical exhibits in a digital format. I hope to be able to produce both physical and digital exhibits in the future as well. I can’t wait to learn and work with all of you!! Good luck this semester! Cheers!

Introduction: Sara Ulanoski

Hi there! My name is Sara Ulanoski, and I am a first-year Public History Masters student at American University. I am from Louisville, Kentucky, where I graduated Summa Cum Laude with bachelor’s in history and anthropology at the University of Louisville. I moved to Washington D.C. in August, and I have loved exploring the city so far. Some of my favorite things to do outside class and work are go to happy hour and explore the city.

Currently, I am a middle school Social Studies teacher at an all-virtual Catholic school based in Virginia. I have known since I was a freshman in college six years ago that I wanted to work in a museum, and I have had a passion for teaching for even longer than that. When I graduate, I plan to combine those two interests by pursuing a career in museum education. Outside of museum education, my interests in history are pretty broad, but my favorites are histories of social justice and social movements in the late 20th century. During undergrad, I wrote my senior thesis on Public History, social justice, and Japanese American Redress.

At American, I hope to learn more about community-based museum design, inclusive design, and the best practices within the field. I am excited for the practicum class I am taking this semester because our team will be working with the curators of the “Girlhood” exhibit in Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. In this class, I am most concerned with how historians can use technology to extend learning for students. I have already witnessed an amazing example of a museum using videogame technology to engage students with the history of Thanksgiving (I actually assigned this game to a few of my classes). Offering educators these types of tools can make a significant impact on changing how history is taught in schools for the better.