Posted by: karlcd | May 30, 2013

Are Word Clouds Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software?

2013 State of the Union Word Cloud

In the 2012 election I noticed that word clouds were used to analyze many candidate’s speeches.  These info-graphics count the number of times a word was used and then represent that word a particular size. The larger the word, the more times that word was used in the speech.  Word clouds do a great job at telling which words were used the most but they also give the reader a false understanding of the material.

Word clouds have two major problems: first they do not include a legend and second, the software used to analyze the text is unknown.  Even with these two faults, I love world clouds.   They give me the raw data and allow me to analyze it myself.  Word clouds make me feel smarter.  I can look at a word cloud and make my own interpretation  because all context of the words has been removed.

The above word cloud of the 2013 State of the Union speech shows me that the words  jobs, America, new, families, congress and energy used most often, but it leaves me to fill in all the adjectives.  Regardless of which adjectives President Obama used, I still think believe I know what he was talking about.

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