The Awakening and Practical Uses of TAPoR

Text Analysis Portal for Research (TAPoR) is a research tool that allows the user to analyze any body of online text. It’s simple enough that all you need to do is copy and paste the url of whatever website of text you’d like to analyze. A good way of doing this with books is to use Project Gutenberg. You’ll find a selection of older books that have been completely digitized and have been placed online.

All in all, the generator is pretty awesome. It allows you to identify the frequency and patterns of when certain words appear in the body of text you’re analyzing. It can help people analyze books more thoroughly when knowing when and where certain words appear, thus helping them identify key themes at certain points in the book. I could personally see this tool as being very helpful in researching a paper, regardless of the discipline.

It would be particularly beneficial for people writing history or English papers and the reason why I say this is because I have a very bad habit of going through my sources, seeing a quote I like, then forgetting where I saw it, and then manically thumbing through every page of the book until I find it. If the book I was looking through was digitized and accessible online, I could type in a unique word from the quote I was searching for and easily find the passage! Plus, I could even use it to find other significant related quotes. This tool has the potential to be useful for historians of all types, though perhaps not until more of our recent sources have been digitized.

To give a quick run-down of one way to use the tool, I’ll show you how I used it to delve a little deeper into one of my favorite novels. I first read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening in my first year English forms of fiction class and loved it. I was told by my professor that it’s interesting to read the book at different stages in life, so I’ve been hoping to read it again (as soon as I find the time!). That said, I figured this would be the perfect book to to test out some practical uses of TAPoR since this still-relevant story is surprisingly old enough to be fully available online at Project Gutenberg.

I simply popped the url into TAPoR’s box that is designed to find concordances and typed in the word love to see what would come up. I found that it came up 40 times, and that it mostly appeared in the second half of the book, less than I had expected, considering the book is only 128 pages. The protagonist (Edna) in the novel has an affair with a younger man, so I typed in affair next. To my surprise, it only came up four times. And in all cases, it referred to a different kind of affair, as in, “dinner was a very grand affair.” Interesting.

In both cases, I was surprised with the results, so the possibilities for analyzing texts in new and exciting ways is really endless. Possibly the best thing about the generator is that it gives you the context in which the word was written, eliminating confusion and helping minimize misinterpretation, something that all historians can really benefit from.

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