Monday, December 20, 2010

Google's New Ngram Viewer As A Research Tool

I have been playing around with Google's new Ngram Viewer this morning.  It is trickier than it looks but I still found some interesting stuff. 

What is the Ngram Viewer?  It takes all the words in all of the pages indexed by Google books and displays them by time and amount of usage.  It sounds simple but it has some extraordinary potential as a research tool.

For example, I have been trying to trace the roots of the term "intelligence cycle".  I want to know who coined the term and when did they do it (more on why I am interested in this in the new year).  The chart below shows what Google Books knows about it:

The early mention (in the 1800's) is a false one but a search of books from the 1940's yields this little gem from 1948.

This is going to be a useful research tool.  If you can think of another way to use it or find anything neat, post it in the comments!

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greylogic said...

This is a very cool find, Kris. I'm heading over to Twitter now to spread the word. :-)

Kristan J. Wheaton said...


Thanks for the comment and the tweet!


Anonymous said...

Use this tool to track civilian interests throughout history. Authors write books about what the public wants to read.

Of course, not every book is on Google Books, but the idea remains.

For example, look at the "Terrorism" trend. After the 1972 Munich assassinations, the volume of terrorism books jumped dramatically.

Unknown said...

Fascinating that it can find the roots for anything published or at least posted on the internet.
Not necessarily intelligence related, but it might be handy for figuring out intellectual property rights to see if someone has already discovered or patented an invention or idea.

Pat said...

I've been doing a series of articles on how African Americans have been covered in my local newspaper since the late 1860s. I'd been curious about when the term negro was replaced by African American. Those two words create an interesting chart. The latter suddenly appears in the last thirty years and spikes, while the former has a wild ride, forming a series of peaks and then lowering but never really going away. The N word, if you choose to add that to your chart, has a steady but low presence in books. Thanks, Kris.