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Voyant Tools: An introduction

Voyant Tools (http://voyant-tools.org) is a web-based platform for analyzing texts using a bunch of different visualization methods. This guide will walk you through several different ways to analyze texts using this web-based-resource.

Voyant Tools in the classroom

Voyant Tools is a great resource for teaching language and style. You can upload any kind of writing to it - including full web pages, most pdfs, and material that has been copy-pasted from other platforms (like Canvas). This page offers some suggestions about how you might use Voyant Tools as a pedagogical resource. Contact Heather Froehlich (hgf5@psu.edu) if you want help implementing these strategies in your classroom.

What do these articles have in common? How are they different?

Choose several (2-3) longer-form articles on a specific topic and have students read them in advance of a class. Summarize each article in class, discuss what they understood about the articles. Then put articles in Voyant Tools and discuss what changes when you read them with a bird's eye view. What is obvious? What is less obvious about these articles in this format? Do they all use specific vocabulary the same way? What makes them similar, what makes them different?

 

How do we understand the work we've been doing from a different perspective?

If you and your students have been focusing a lot on a specific text during the semester, upload a copy of it to Voyant Tools. Discuss where your focal point(s) have been, and use these as "ins" to the corpus. Can we find those words in the word cloud? Are there any words in there that surprise you? Why or why not? Explore context: any patterns or recurrent themes in surrounding terms or concepts of interest that become more easily identifiable with the key word in context viewer? Does one of them take off after a certain point in the text and supercede another?

 

What does my writing look like?

Classes with regular writing assignments (such as Canvas posts or short response essays) often discuss the editorial process. Having students upload their own writing and observe what their own language looks like in a non-linear way offers a twist on the classic "review your essay and think about what you say". Are there specific phrases or words you like to use a lot? What other ways are there to present the same idea but use some different language?