Monday, November 3, 2014

Text mining for beginners

I am now Director of Digital Scholarship at Northern Illinois University Libraries. This means that it is now my job to work with faculty members seeking to employ technologies like Geographic Information Systems, text-mining and data visualization - helping those with little experience in such work find a way to put the technology to work.

As I really do not know very much at all about these activities, my job is now an exercise in learning something new. To this end, I have sought some help.

This fall I am working with a team of three Northern Illinois University students and their faculty coach, who will provide me with an evaluation of several open-source text-mining utilities, as well as a more general review of resources available for a scholar or other practitioner who might want to take up text-mining but lacks any experience in the work.

I spent last summer trying to identify and prepare text materials for their use in the evaluation of the utilities, and found very little information explaining how to begin a text mining project - i.e., finding digitized texts, selecting texts for research, and working them into a format suitable for use with the software - available.

I am looking forward to the students' report, and will try to bring their findings to the attention of historians and other humanities scholars who might be interested in text-mining.