Google Ngram Viewer

Google Ngram Viewer is a digital tool like Voyant and the Time Magazine Corpus, which compiles all books from 1500 to 2019 in several languages. In this search engine, a word, phrase, or date can be entered and a graph of information tracking the frequency of the searched term in literature. Partial phrases completed by using “*” in place of the missing words result in different lines on a graph representing the top substitutions. The tool uses lines on a graph to track the frequency of the searched item through history with the X-axis representing time and the Y-axis representing the percentage of the searched item in literature. The filters can be edited to search American English, British English, and other languages and will provide different results instantly.

This way researchers can track the popularity of the searched item. The results will immediately clue the researcher in on the time periods most relevant to their research and how it faded from popularity. The searched time periods can also be edited to narrow the search to a custom set of years. The ability to search multiple items against each other is a great, easy way to compare and contrast the popularity of each item over time.

On the bottom of the page is an “interesting” year range the connects the user with results from Google Books. This way the user can track the texts relevant to their search in the time period they desire. This digital tool is an important resource to researchers looking for texts to access related to their field of research. The popularity of the searched item also informs the user of the societal shifts surrounding the searched item. This data alone can be valuable to support the researcher’s argument. It enables researchers to ask questions about the differences in results based on the filters, for instance, the difference in results when searching “Nursery Schools” in British English and American English. This clues the researcher in on the different levels of focus in societies around the world on the same subject. The researcher has access to start their search in a subject by looking at it through time and locations. Other ways researchers can narrow their search is by adding “_VERB” or “_NOUN” to a word like “Tackle”. Searching the verb will result in different results than the noun and the search can be changed to a list of tags found on the “About Ngram Viewer” link. Here researchers can educate themselves about what the search can do, how it can be used, and what they’re looking at means.

Time Magazine Corpus

The Time Magazine Corpus digital tool compiles all Time magazine articles since 1923 and analyzes the changes in how the English language has been used and changed over time. This tool reveals how society and culture influenced trends in language with examples of words like “flapper”, “global warming”, and “hippy”. It’s easy to see how each of these words is associated with a certain period of time and how language changes with time. Additionally, researchers can view how parts of words have been used through time such as “-gate” as in “Watergate”, “-aholic” as in “shopaholic”, and common parts of words like “-dom” as in “Kingdom”.

Time Magazine Home Page

By simply typing a word into the search bar section titled “Chart”, an analysis of how often that word has been used in Time broken down by decade and its frequency is demonstrated by the varied shades of color. By clicking on the decade you want to analyze, results will show you the instances and issues the searched word appears. This could come back with over 100,000 results so the more specific and distinct a word the better results you’ll get.

Text analysis broken down by decades and then years

For example, typing the word “Mustang” in the chart section of the search bar quickly provides data on when the word is most frequently used. Not surprisingly, we see rises in frequency during the 1940s, when the P-51 Mustang was the most popular fighter of World War II, and in the 1960s, when the classic Ford Mustang was in its heyday. But the research doesn’t stop there, an additional click on the decade will show a second result broken down by each year in it. Here, we can see how in 1944 the word “Mustang” was most frequency used during the heart of World War II before dramatically dropping off in the post-war years. One more click will bring you to the lines in the issues published with “Mustang” in it displaying how useful this tool would be in researching this subject. However, by clicking the “List” part of the search bar, the results will take you directly to all the lines the word was used throughout history with no analysis of frequency through time. A third option is to click the ”Collocate” section of the search bar which allows you to search two words and get results to the times they were used near each other further narrowing results. By searching “Mustang” and “Germany”, you may be surprised to learn the two words only appear once near each other in a 1942 issue.

Thankfully, this tool acts as a Control+F search for the entirety of the Time magazine collection. I acclimated myself to this tool and found its usefulness far quicker that the Voyant tool because it is easier to navigate. The “Help” page was shorter and more concise providing examples of how the tool can be used and links to search result examples to demonstrate how the directions can be applied. One drawback for this tool is the need to register with an account and link your account with your university where as Voyant did not require that to use the tool.

Tour “Help” Page

Like the Voyant Digital Tool, the Time Magazine Corpus is hard to navigate and even harder to understand how to use. A very simple site and slow to load, the tool offers unbiased and accurate results that can be used to help researchers know where and when to look. Researchers now have the ability to contextualize language and pinpoint the areas they should look into. A very useful tool to analyze cultural shifts through language, this tool can clue us in on how fickle language is.

Voyant Tools

Voyant Tools is a web-based text reading and analysis environment. It is a scholarly project that is designed to facilitate reading and interpretive practices for digital humanities students and scholars as well as for the general public.

At first glance, it is unclear what this research tool is, how to use it, and what to take from it.

Voyant Site Home Page

After confusingly typing a word into the text box and clicking reveal, I found myself even more at sea by all of the analysis available if the site is used properly. The “Help” button is represented by a questions mark link that will redirect you to another overwhelming page of information seen below (Just look at all of those files to sift through). Any new user to this tool will undoubtedly need to spend some time navigating the site and learning all the potential text analysis available. The site is not particularly pleasing to the eye (Though I am not tech savvy so take what I say with a grain of salt).

Although, once the user inputs a URL into the initial text box (the way I should’ve started), a flurry of text analysis and data is immediately available. I copied and pasted the URL to the Wikipedia page on the P-51 Mustang as an example. Here you can view the frequency of key words in the text in the form of a word cloud, in graphs displaying in which parts of the text the word appears most, and a flurry of other available data with multiple ways of viewing that data.

Again, to really understand how to properly use this tool to its full potential, you’ll have to spend a bit of time reading through the descriptions of each option available to understand how to apply this site towards your research. Thankfully, the “Help” page is thorough and any information you may need can be easily accessed.

Researches may be interested in creating a “corpus”, which is a set of documents or URLs analyzed together. The tool is meant for humanities scholars to quickly analyze several texts by revealing trends, similarities, and distinctions. Hopefully, it will direct the scholar to ask questions of what the analysis can tell you, but its primary function is to be used as a tool for exploration and to assist with interpretative practices. The digitalization of history will save scholars time combing through countless texts and sitting in archives or libraries with a stack of books. The tool can also be used in different languages so it is not limited to just English. According to the tutorial and workshop page, an extensive workshop on how to use this tool can take an entire day signifying how complex accurately using this tool really is.

I believe there is a bit of irony in the digitalization of history as I chose to study humanities because the STEM field was always my weakest subject, and yet, I am again trading hardback books for digital tools. Despite my best efforts, technology is working its way back into my studies!

Vincent Gonzalez Introduction

My name is Vincent Gonzalez, I am a first year Public History MA student at American University.

I am originally from southern California and moved to Washington, D.C. following my undergraduate completion in 2018. I earned a B.A. in History from California State University, Fullerton and began my career in D.C. with two congressional internships for Congressmembers before earning a permanent full-time position in Congresswoman Julia Brownley’s office. After 3 years moving up in the office, I made the decision to leave the Hill and pursue a career in history by accepting an offer to join the Public History M.A. program at American University. Shortly after, I accepted a position with the United States Capitol Historical Society (USCHS) where I currently work while attending part-time classes in the evenings.

As part of my graduate studies in public history, I hope to gain knowledge on how the USCHS can improve its digital presence and utilize resources afforded to me as part of this program. I also hope to access the vast network in public history American University offers to widen my knowledge of and network in public history.