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 Inquirer.

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 pjs@wjh.harvard.edu. Please do not send messages to inquirer@wjh.harvard.edu.

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 the box.

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" address. Please comply carefully with the terms of use in the short "license" 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 dictionaries.  

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 click here.

3) For information about the General Inquirer merged Harvard-IV-4 and Lasswell dictionaries and descriptions of 182 General Inquirer tag categories, click here.

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 workshop participants.


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, 1997)


email address: pjs@wjh.harvard.edu

This web page has been visited 10765 times since its last extensive revision on September 12, 2002.