Welcome to the General Inquirer Home Page.
This is the home website for the General Inquirer, a computer-assisted
approach for content analyses of textual data. The site is designed to be a
resource for learning about the Inquirer as well as a reference in using the
PLEASE PUT "INQUIRER" AS THE FIRST WORD IN THE SUBJECT HEADING OF ANY
EMAIL YOU SEND US. WE DO NOT OPEN ATTACHMENTS UNLESS THERE ALSO IS AN
EXPLANATORY TEXT MESSAGE. Note that our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please do not send messages to email@example.com.
The NSF-Sponsored "WebUse" project at the University of Maryland, developed
by John Robinson and his staff, provides an opportunity to try out the General
Inquirer on text you supply. We received numerous emails last summer about the
site being down, but it was back up when last checked. Link to it at: www.webuse.umd. The Inquirer is listed under
"Resources" at the left of this page. You can type or paste text into the box
and obtain different levels of feedback, depending on the checks you make below
General Inquirer development has been supported by grants from the USA
National Science Foundation and Research Grant Councils of Great Britain and
Australia. Until the mid-1990's, it only operated on large mainframe IBM
computers that supported the PL/1 programming language. However with its
reprogramming supported by the Gallup Organization, first in TrueBasic by Philip
Stone and then in Java by Vanja Buvac, the system now provides English-language
content analysis capabilities using both the "Harvard" and "Lasswell"
general-purpose dictionaries as well as any dictionary categories developed by
the user. With today's PC's or Macs, the system, including its disambiguation
routines for high-frequency English homographs, usually processes text files on
the order of a million words an hour. However, it is not packaged to be
commercially available, nor do we intend to commit ourselves to providing the
support services such availability would require.
During the last four years, we have made the system available for academic
research purposes. In addition to a seminar at Harvard, workshops with
laboratories have been taught at Essex University (as part of the European
Social Science Consortium program) and at a large Cologne sociology conference
on research methods. Our Java software (which operates on PC, Mac, Unix or
Linux, including the Mac's OSX Terminal), together with dictionaries, and
disambiguation rules, can be downloaded as a zipped file. Perhaps the Inquirer
users don't want to bother us, but none of those who have used the system have
reported any software-caused crashes or other difficulties. The Inquirer runs on
any recent-vintage PC or Mac computer, using less RAM than current versions of
MS Word. To obtain a copy for academic purposes, please email us from your "edu"
section of the documentation that comes the the download, including the request
not to distribute the General Inquirer on your own. And please send us copies of
any reports or publications stemming from the use of the system.
The Java software has been augmented with an optional "word" output in which
counts are provided for each word and word sense match (after any necessary
suffix removals) in the combined Harvard/Lasswell dictionaries, as well as the
frequency of every unmatched "leftover" word appearing in the texts that is not
in these dictionaries. The output matrix can be large, with rows for every word
and word sense appearing in the text, followed by rows for leftover words, with
a column of raw counts for each text file processed. However, this can be very
useful for drilling down further on your data, revising and expanding
categories, and new category development.
For an excellent general introduction to content analysis, we highly
recommend "The Content Analysis Guidebook" by Kimberly Neuendorf, published a
year ago by Sage Publications. While we continue to think of content analysis as
a "mapping" operation, rather than the "summarizing" operation she describes, we
generally agree with her point of view and appreciate her thoughtful treatment
of many topics regarding content analysis. For access to the on-line site for
this book, click here.
This website is divided into several sections, giving both information about
the Inquirer and pointers to other systems. Our website pages include links to
the first hundred words of each category in both the Harvard and Lasswell
This web page has been visited 10765 times since its last extensive
revision on September 12, 2002.
1) For an opportunity to try out the Inquirer on a moderate amount of text
and see what it does, try linking to the "Webuse" site. For several years, we
used an Apple computer configured as a Linux server to provide this Internet
access, which was was recommended in Neuendorf's book and elsewhere. The
WebUse Project at the University of Maryland then made this capability
available on their server. The "Webuse" site only provides applications of the
Harvard dictionary categories, not the Lasswell dictionary categories. Note
that the full listing for each category, not just the first 100 entries, can
be found on this site at http://www.webuse.umd.edu:9090/tags/.
2) For information on how the General Inquirer is used and a comparison of
the General Inquirer with other approaches, a useful next step might be to
3) For information about the General Inquirer merged Harvard-IV-4 and
Lasswell dictionaries and descriptions of 182 General Inquirer tag categories,
4) For information about the General Inquirer marker categories as part of
the General Inquirer dictionaries, click here.
5) For information on how to prepare text, name text files, and organize
files into folders as input to the General Inquirer, click here.
6) For an example of the new spreadsheet output format produced by the
General Inquirer, click here.
7) For some basic suggestions about how to develop new General Inquirer
categories, click here.
8) For information about a new Inquirer multiword dictionary-entry
feature, which exists for the TrueBasic version of the Inquirer but is yet to
be implemented for the Java version, click here.
Special pages for General Inquirer
For a published overview of our perspective on content analysis challenges,
see: P.J. Stone, "Thematic text analysis: new agendas for analyzing text
content." which appears as chapter 2 in Text Analysis for the Social
Sciences edited by Carl Roberts (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers,
email address: firstname.lastname@example.org