Nicole Rae Baerg, Ph.D. is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the University of Essex, Government Department. Previously, she was an Assistant Professor at the University of Mannheim (2014 – 2016) and a research intern at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta (2008 – 2013). Her book “Crafting Consensus: Why Central Bankers’ Change their Speech and How Speech Changes the Economy” is under contract with Oxford University Press. She is a political economist working with political textual analysis, monetary and financial politics, and fiscal policy.

Course Content
The course surveys methods for systematically extracting quantitative information from text for social scientific purposes, starting with classical content analysis and dictionary-based methods, to classification methods, and state-of-the-art scaling methods and topic models for estimating quantities from text using statistical techniques. The course lays a theoretical foundation for text analysis but mainly takes a very practical and applied approach, so that students learn how to apply these methods in actual research. The common focus across all methods is that they can be reduced to a three-step process: first, identifying texts and units of texts for analysis; second, extracting from the texts quantitatively measured features—such as coded content categories, word counts, word types, dictionary counts, or parts of speech—and converting these into quantitative matrix; and third, using quantitative or statistical methods to analyse this matrix in order to generate inferences about the texts or their authors. The course systematically surveys these methods in a logical progression, with a very practical hands-on approach where each technique will be applied in lab sessions using appropriate software, on real texts.

Course Objectives
The course is also designed to cover many fundamental issues in quantitative text analysis such as inter-coder agreement, reliability, validation, accuracy, and precision. It focuses on methods of converting texts into quantitative matrixes of features, and then analysing those features using statistical methods. The course briefly covers the qualitative technique of human coding and annotation (classical content analysis), but the main focus is on more automated approaches. These automated approaches include dictionary construction and application, classification and machine learning, scaling models, and topic models.

Course Prerequisites
Students in this course should have prior knowledge in the following areas:
1) An understanding of probability and statistics at the level of an intermediate postgraduate social science course. Understanding of regression analysis is presumed. Some basic understanding of maximum likelihood would be useful. This course is not heavily mathematical or statistical but students without the prerequisite level of quantitative experience will find the second week (in particular) difficult to follow.
2) Basic familiarity with the R statistical language. The lab sessions will be designed to use R coupled with a customized R library designed by Ken Benoit. This is in development and available from

Representative Background Reading

Krippendorff, K. (2013). Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology. Sage, Thousand
Oaks, CA, 3rd edition.

James, G., Witten, D., & Hastie, T. (2014). An Introduction to Statistical Learning: With Appli-
cations in R. Taylor and Francis

Classes will meet for ten sessions. Approximately 2/3 of the time will be devoted to lectures, and the other 1/3 will consist of “lab” sessions where we will work through exercises in class.

Computer Software

Computer-based exercises will feature prominently in the course, especially in the lab sessions. The use of all software tools will be explained in the sessions, including how to download and install them. We will be working primarily in R, using the “quanteda” package.

Recommended Texts

There is no really good single textbook that exists to cover computerized or quantitative text analysis.

• Krippendorff, K. (2013). Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, 3rd edition.

Another good general reference to content analysis that you might find useful as a supplement is:
• Neuendorf, K. A. (2002). The Content Analysis Guidebook. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

A good general statistics reference for Machine Learning in R is:

• James, G., Witten, D., & Hastie, T. (2014). An Introduction to Statistical Learning: With Applications in R. Taylor and Francis.

A good book on annotation software to annotate or markup your own texts is:
• Pustejovsky, J., & Stubbs, A. (2012). Natural language annotation for machine learning. O’Reilly Media, Inc..

Detailed Course Schedule

Day 1: Quantitative text analysis overview and fundamentals
This topic will introduce the goals and logistics of the course, provide an overview of the topics to be covered, and preview the software to be used. It will also introduce traditional (non-computer assisted) content analysis and distinguish this from computer-assisted methods and quantitative text analysis. We will cover the conceptual foundations of content analysis and quantitative content analysis, discuss the objectives, the approach to knowledge, and the particular view of texts when performing quantitative analysis. We will also work through some published examples.

Required Reading:
Krippendorff (2013, Ch. 1,2,4)
Wallach (2014)

Recommended Reading:
Grimmer and Stewart (2013)
Roberts (2000)

Lab session:
Exercise 1: Working with Texts in quanteda

Day 2: Textual Data, Units of Analysis, Definitions of Documents and Features

Textual data comes in many forms. Here we discuss those formats, and talk about text processing preparation of texts. These issues include where to obtain textual data; formatting and working with text files; indexing and meta-data; units of analysis; and definitions of features and measures commonly extracted from texts, including stemming, stop-words, and feature weighting.

Required Reading:
Jivani (2011)
Manning, Raghavan and Schütze (2008, 117–120)

Recommended Reading:
Denny and Spirling (2016)
Krippendorff (2013, Ch. 5,6,7)
Wikipedia entry on Character encoding,
Browse the different text file formats at

Lab session:
Exercise 2: Extracting features from texts

Day 3: Descriptive statistical methods for textual analysis
Here we focus on quantitative methods for describing texts, focusing on summary measures that highlight particular characteristics of documents and allowing these to be compared. These methods include characterizing texts through concordances, co-occurrences, and keywords in context; complexity and readability measures; and an in-depth discussion of text types, tokens, and equivalencies.

Required Reading:
Spirling (2016)

Recommended Reading:
DuBay (2004)
Krippendorff (2013, Ch. 10)

Lab session:
Exercise 3: Descriptive summaries of texts

Day 4: Quantitative methods for comparing texts
Quantitative methods for comparing texts, through concordances and keyword identification, dissimilarity measures, association models, and vector-space models.

Required Reading:
Lowe et al. (2011)
Manning, Raghavan and Schütze (2008, Section 6.3)

Recommended Reading:
Krippendorff (2013, Ch. 11)

Lab session:
Exercise 4: Document similarity and resampling texts

Day 5: Automated dictionary methods
Automatic dictionary-based methods involve association of pre-defined word lists with particular quantitative values assigned by the researcher for some characteristic of interest. This topic covers the design model behind dictionary construction, including guidelines for testing and refining dictionaries. We will also review a variety of text pre-processing issues and textual data concepts such as word types, tokens, and equivalencies, including word stemming and trimming of words based on term and/or document frequency.

Required Reading:
Laver and Garry (2000)
Rooduijn and Pauwels (2011)
Loughran and McDonald (2011)

Recommended Reading:
Pennebaker and Chung (2008)

Exercise 5: Applying dictionary coding

Day 6: Document classifiers and Supervised Learning
Supervised classification methods permit the automatic classification of texts in a test set following machine learning from a training set. We will introduce machine learning methods for classifying documents, including one of the most popular classifiers, the Naive Bayes model, as well as k-nearest neighbour and support vector machines (SVMs). The topic also introduces validation and reporting methods for classifiers and discusses where these methods are applicable as well as pitfalls and problems which each method.

Required Reading:

James et al. (2013, Ch.4,5,9,8)
Evans et al. (2007)
Statsoft, “Naive Bayes Classifier Introductory Overview,”

Recommended Reading:
An online article by Paul Graham on classifying spam e-mail., 9 Feb 2012, “How to Build a Naive Bayes Classifier,”
Yu, Kaufmann and Diermeier (2008)

Exercise 6: Examining movie reviews and political speeches by author. http://www.cs.cornell.
edu/People/pabo/movie-review-data/ and the 10th Republican Presidential candidate debate
using R and the quanteda package.

Day 7: Document classifiers and Unsupervised Learning
Unlike in supervised learning methods, in unsupervised learning, we only have input data and no corresponding labeled output variables. The goal for unsupervised learning is therefore to model the underlying structure of the data. Algorithms such as clustering and hierarchical clustering are used to try to discover and present the interesting structure in the data.

Required Reading:
James et al. (2013, Ch.10)

Recommended Reading:
Quinn et al. (2010)

Exercise 7: Examining UK political parties and Immigration speeches using R and the quanteda package.

Day 8: Scaling Texts
This topic introduces methods for placing documents on continuous dimensions or “scales”, introducing the major non-parametric methods for scaling documents and discusses the situations where scaling methods are appropriate. Building on the Naive Bayes classifier, we introduce the “Wordscores” method of Laver, Benoit and Garry (2003) and show the link between classification and scaling. We also discusses the similarities and differences to other non-parametric scaling models such as correspondence analysis. We then look at scaling texts based on parametric approaches modelling features as Bernoulli or Poisson distributed, and contrasts these methods to other alternatives, critically examining the assumptions such models rely upon.

Required Reading:

Laver, Benoit and Garry (2003)
Slapin and Proksch (2008)
Lowe and Benoit (2013)

Recommended Reading:
Martin and Vanberg (2007)
Benoit and Laver (2007)
Lowe (2008)
Clinton, Jackman and Rivers (2004)


Exercise 8: Wordscoring and “Wordfish” (Requires R).

Day 9: Clustering methods and topic models

An introduction to hierarchical clustering for textual data, including parametric topic models such as Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA). We also look at recent work that tries to combine both scaling and topic modeling together in a “semi-supervised” approach.

Required Reading:
Blei (2012)
Blei, Ng and Jordan (2003)
Baerg and Lowe (2016)
Roberts et al. (2014)

Exercise 9: Using LDA to estimate document topics.

Day 10: Promises & Pitfalls
We will discuss when and why QTA can lead us astray, making particular attention to concerns of reliability and validity.

Required Reading:
Ginsberg et al. (2009)
Lazer et al. (2014)
Bunea and Ibenskas (2015)

Recommended Reading:
Krippendorff (2013, Ch.12–13 )

Baerg, Nicole Rae andWill Lowe. 2016. “A Textual Taylor Rule: Estimating Central Bank Preferences Combining Topic and Scaling Methods.” Working Paper .

Benoit, Kenneth and M Laver. 2007. “Compared to What? A Comment on “A Robust Transformation Procedure for Interpreting Political Text” by Martin and Vanberg.” Political Analysis 16(1):101–111.

Blei, David M. 2012. “Probabilistic topic models.” Communications of the ACM 55(4):77.

Blei, David M, Andrew Y Ng and Michael I Jordan. 2003. “Latent Dirichlet Allocation.” 3:993–1022.

Bunea, Adriana and Raimondas Ibenskas. 2015. “Quantitative Text Analysis and the Study of EU
Lobbying and Interest Groups.” European Union Politics 16(4).

Clinton, Joshua, Simon Jackman and Douglas Rivers. 2004. “The Statistical Analysis of Roll Call
Data.” American Political Science Review 98(02):355–370.

Denny, Matthew James and Arthur Spirling. 2016. “Assessing the Consequences of Text Preprocessing
Decisions.” Working Paper .

DuBay, William H. 2004. “The Principles of Readability.” Online Submission pp. 1–78.

Evans, M, W McIntosh, J Lin and C Cates. 2007. “Recounting the Courts? Applying Automated
Content Analysis to Enhance Empirical Legal Research’(2007).” Journal of Empirical Legal Studies

Ginsberg, Jeremy, Matthew Mohebbi, Rajan Patel, Lynnette Brammer, Mark Smolinsk and Larry Brilliant.
2009. “Detecting Influenza Epidemics Using Search Engine Query Data.” Nature 457:1012–

Grimmer, J and B M Stewart. 2013. “Text as Data: The Promise and Pitfalls of Automatic Content
Analysis Methods for Political Texts.” Political Analysis 21(3):267–297.

James, Gareth, Daniela Witten, Trevor Hastie and Robert Tibshirani. 2013. An introduction to statistical
learning. Vol. 6 Springer.

Jivani, A G. 2011. “A comparative study of stemming algorithms.” Int J Comp Tech Appl .

Krippendorff, Klaus. 2013. Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology. Sage.

Laver, M and J Garry. 2000. “Estimating policy positions from political texts.” American Journal of
Political Science .

Laver, Michael, Kenneth Benoit and John Garry. 2003. “Extracting Policy Positions from Political
Texts Using Words as Data.” American Political Science Review 97(02):311–331.

Lazer, David, Ryan Kennedy, Gary King and Alessandro Vespignani. 2014. “The Parable of Google
Flu: Traps in Big Data Analysis.” Science 343.

Loughran, Tim and Bill McDonald. 2011. “When Is a Liability Not a Liability? Textual Analysis,
Dictionaries, and 10-Ks.” The Journal of Finance 66(1):35–65.

Lowe, W. 2008. “Understanding Wordscores.” Political Analysis 16(4):356–371.

Lowe, Will and Kenneth Benoit. 2013. “Validating Estimates of Latent Traits from Textual Data Using
Human Judgement as a Benchmark.” Political Analysis .

Lowe, Will, Kenneth Benoit, Slava Mikhaylov and Michael Laver. 2011. “Scaling Policy Preferences
from Coded Political Texts.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 36(1):123–155.

Manning, Christopher D, Prabhakar Raghavan and Hinrich Schütze. 2008. Introduction to Information
Retrieval. Cambridge University Press.

Martin, L W and G Vanberg. 2007. “A Robust Transformation Procedure for Interpreting Political
Text.” Political Analysis 16(1):93–100.

Pennebaker, J W and C K Chung. 2008. Computerized text analysis of Al-Qaeda transcripts. A content
analysis reader.

Quinn, Kevin M, Burt L Monroe, Michael Colaresi, Michael H Crespin and Dragomir R Radev. 2010.
“How to analyze political attention with minimal assumptions and costs.” American Journal of
Political Science 54(1):209–228.

Roberts, CarlW. 2000. “A Conceptual Framework for Quantitative Text Analysis.” Quality and Quantity

Roberts, Margaret, Brandon Stewart, Dustin Tingley, Christopher Lucas, Jetson Leder-Luis, Shana
Gadarian, Bethany Albertson and David Rand. 2014. “Structural Topic Models for Open-Ended
Survey Responses.” American Journal of Political Science 58(4):1064–1082.

Rooduijn, Matthijs and Teun Pauwels. 2011. “Measuring Populism: Comparing Two Methods of
Content Analysis.” West European Politics 34(6):1272–1283.

Slapin, Jonathan B and Sven-Oliver Proksch. 2008. “A Scaling Model for Estimating Time-Series
Party Positions from Texts.” American Journal of Political Science 52(3):705–722.

Spirling, Arthur. 2016. “Democratization and Linguistic Complexity: The Effect of Franchise Extension
on Parliamentary Discourse, 1832–1915.” The Journal of Politics 78(1):120–136.

Wallach, H. 2014. Big data, machine learning, and the social sciences: Fairness, accountability, and
transparency. In NIPS Workshop on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency in Machine Learning.

Yu, Bei, Stefan Kaufmann and Daniel Diermeier. 2008. “Classifying Party Affiliation from Political
Speech.” Journal of Information Technology & Politics 5(1):33–48.