Voyant: Digital Tool Review

Crystal Lemus is a Digital Humanities student at Belmont University.

Have you ever had to sort through hundreds of pages of endless information from a single source? If so, you may also be familiar with the frustrations that come along with having to do this several times for multiple sources of information. Eventually, all data seems merge together into one giant blur. Everything looks practically indistinguishable, making it difficult for reading alone to recognize patterns in the text. Voyant has kept these issues and frustrations in mind and has revolutionized the way we study bodies of information by introducing ways to visualize text patterns that are new and refreshing to the eyes.

Voyant allows you to generate a word cloud of most frequent words, generate graphs of word frequency across the corpus, and compare multiple documents. Images, like the ones shown below, are generated using this digital tool which allows the user to make comparisons, view similarities within texts, draw connections, and see emerging themes. In short, it allows you to look through multiple sources and get to the heart of the text in a matter of seconds. Best of all, usage of this tool is completely free and can be accessed by anyone with internet access.

My main concerns with Voyant are minor. Initially, I was concerned that when comparing two or more bodies of text, the word count would be skewed due to variations in text body length. One of the advantages of Voyant, however, is that it analyzes relative frequencies, not just raw word counts in order to adjust for imbalances in document length. Another thing that stuck out to me was the fact that all five screens are shown at once which can make it appear intimidating. While I will admit that I did feel overwhelmed when I initially opened the tool, once I started clicking around the different options, it became evident that it was very straightforward and was made to make life easier rather than harder. Digital tool practice makes perfect!

One of the things that I love about this online tool is that it can be used by anyone to analyze information from any field. Not only can this be used by researchers that are trying to understand document collections that are prohibitively large for a close-reading, it can also be enjoyed by those that are working on a small project or simply have a love for words. I would highly recommend Voyant for all of your word processing needs.  

How To Use:

  1. Once on Voyant’s website (https://voyant-tools.org/), copy and paste the URL of the information you are wanting to further process.
  2. If you are uploading a document, make sure that the content of information you are wanting to analyze is in one of the following formats:  HTML, XML, PDF, RTF, MS Word.
  3. You can edit Voyant’s stopword list by opening the option menu, accessible by hovering briefly over the top bar of the tool and then clicking the options icon (looks like a switch) once it appears. This can narrow your search by removing common words such as “a” and “the.”
  4. All five windows on the screen show you different forms of visualizing information about the text:
    • Cirrus, Terms, and Link (Top, Left): Provide a visual representation of the text through a text collage of the most common words, a list of words and how many times they appear in the text, and a network visualization, respectively.
    • Reader, Terms Berry (Top, Middle): The body of text that was inserted (data insert), and a circle diagram of text that highlights associated terms, respectively.
    • Trends, Document Trends (Top, Right):  Both of these show textual trends using frequency rates in different formats.
    • Summary, Documents, Phrases (Bottom, Left): Summary of average number of words per sentence/most frequently used words, shows what document you are currently analyzing (if you are analyzing more than one), and common phrases a selected word is found in.
    • Contexts, Bubblelines, Correlations (Bottom, Right): Find the context of a selected word by seeing what is to the left and to the right of it in the text, chronological overlap of selected words in bubble form as they are found in the text, and correlations between terms, respectively.
  5. Once all information has been gathered, it can be exported by clicking on the square with an arrow coming out of it which is located on the top right of the screen.

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