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Document KWICs shows a table of keywords in their context. In other words, it provides a list of certain keywords and their occurrence within a corpus or document.
Document Keywords in Context is part of the larger Voyant text analysis toolset. It allows a user to search for keywords across one or more documents. The interface returns all instances of that word along with the fragments of text that precede and follow it. Like all Voyant tools, KWIC is simple to use right in your web browser. Simply load a text document, an XML file or an URL into a window on the tool home page. This tool also works with a corpus comprised of multiple documents.
The first page at which we arrive is blank with a message reading “No results”. Although it may be somewhat confusing to the first-time user this is normal behaviour for the KWIC tool. You need simply enter a keyword in the search box at the bottom of the page. The resulting page shows every instance of that word in the context of the document or documents in which it appears. You can increase or decrease the number of results you see per page by using the “Preview” menu at the bottom of the page.
The default setting is to show the five words that precede it, and the five words that follow it in the document, but you can adjust the tool to show more contextual words by using the “Context” menu at the bottom of the screen:
You can also expand any entry to view much more of the context in which that specific instance of the word occurs. Clicking the entry will open your document or corpus in the Voyant full skin.
The use of keywords in context has some important advantages over tools that offer a straight-up word count. I experimented with the full text corpus of the Humanist listserv with some interesting results. I chose the keyword “Byron” in order to search for references to the poet Lord Byron. Thirty-six results were returned, which seemed a likely number of times that Byron might have been mentioned in a 10 year period. A quick glance at the results, however, quickly showed that many of these hits were not related to Lord Byron as I had previously assumed. Of 36 hits on Byron, 18 of them were references to humanities researchers who happened to have Byron as a first or second name. Language is slippery and ambiguous. The keywords in context tool allows you to drill deeper into word meaning. It’s a good way to check assumptions about data gleaned from word frequency analysis tools.
Room for Improvement
There are two aspects of this tool that could stand improvement. The first page at which you arrive after loading a text contains only the message “no results”. This could be confusing for novice users. That message should be replaced by something more user friendly like “Please enter a keyword.” The second problem presents when you click through an entry into the full Voyant skin. I expected to see that particular word in context in the document reader, but it simply took me to the beginning of the document. It would be more useful if the keywords form the KWIC tool were carried over into the full skin when clicked. Ideally the reader would display that particular line of text so the researcher could drill even further into contextual information.
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