Comparing Yelp Reviews of Lincoln’s Tomb: A print Project

To those who study the Civil War the man with possibly one of the biggest impacts on the country is none other than Abraham Lincoln. Assassinated at the end of the war, a nation looked to grieve by memorializing the man in a grand tomb in his home state of Illinois. That tomb, now called Lincoln’s Tomb, is the pride of the Prairie State. However, I have often wondered what do others think of the place, and this broad question has led me to devise an attempt at answering this idea.

Yelp page for Lincoln’s Tomb

Next, The best way to see what people think about a subject is to either ask them directly or to look at their reviews on sites. Since it is nearly impossible to track down all of these people and ask them directly about there experiences the reviews left on Yelp shall suffice. One reason that reviews are good benchmarks is that people took the time to leave reviews of the sight on their own time, and this often means that what is said can be counted on as an accurate description of how an individual interacted with a site. In addition, reviews on sites like Yelp allow people to leave their own “historical evidence” in the form of pictures and comments of their own experiences in their lives. In this way it is not too unlike a diary entry or something similar that reveals an insight to a person’s thought process.

First, the main question that I would be looking at is how do people feel about the Lincoln Tomb? The reason that I chose this question is that it then allows me to compare people’s lived experiences using a variety of factors. One thing that I will look at is the amount of stars left on reviews, both in a total capacity and on an individual basis if there are varying levels of reviews. This will allow for a scope to be established and for “categories” of reviews to be discerned. Second, I will compare who is leaving reviews if I am able to establish this criteria. In doing so a rough portrait of people can be sketched and a rough sample demographic shown.

Continuing on, the content of reviews would be compared amongst reviewers to establish what the overall mood is when looking at Lincoln’s Tomb. Did people have a good experience? Was it bad? Why? Was there anything about the surrounding area that contributed to their review? If so, why? These questions among others will help to highlight what people understood to be there experience of the site.

Finally, I wanted to return to the scope of the project briefly to set some limits. There are currently 93 total reviews of the site, and so this seems to be a big enough size for the project. Specific reviews will most likely be quoted in the print project to help establish certain ways that visitors to sites think, and to give a chance for the evidence to speak for itself. That is, for the reviewers to be heard through the comparisons to each other.

One Reply to “Comparing Yelp Reviews of Lincoln’s Tomb: A print Project”

  1. Hi Bryce,

    This is a great idea for a project. I think it’s very likely that you could end up with something publishable from this kind of study. I like the way that you have focused directly on one historic site, and I think that sets you up really well for something that you could functionally do comprehensively.

    Given that there are 93 reviews, I think your best bet there would be to just go ahead and do some open-ended coding for themes of all 93 of them and then work through writing up the sorts of themes and patterns that reoccur in the ways that people talk about the place. If you ended up needing/wanting anything more for it, you could also consider looking at TripAdvisor reviews. As a resource for thinking about how to do some of this kind of analysis and how to write it up, I wrote a paper about reviews of the Einstein Memorial about a decade ago that likely could work as a model for the kind of thing you could write. (http://www.trevorowens.org/vitae/tripadvisor-rates-einstein/ ). One thing I did there, that you could likely also do here, is I went and delved into some archival sources about what the intentions were behind the design of the memorial. That was useful in that I could then compare and contrast the ways that users were engaging with the site as evidenced in their reviews with the ways that it’s creators intended it to be used.

    Altogether, this is a solid idea for a paper, and I think you could carry it out in the semester and likely end up with something that could be publishable.

    Best, Trevor

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