Analysis Mini-Genre: Keyword Analysis

Take a look at the following images.

Keyword Analysis of a Speech

figure 8.1

Keyword Analysis of a Court Opinion

figure 8.2

Keyword Analysis of a Government Document

figure 8.3

Use the Toolkit

Let’s use the three genre toolkit questions from Chapter 1 to examine this genre.

What is it?

All of these images provide fodder for a kind of analysis, called a keyword analysis, in which a long text is broken down by the words it contains most often, or its keywords. The size of the words in a word or tag “cloud” indicates their frequency in a text—the bigger the word, the more often it is used. You may have seen similar kinds of keywords analyses—often called word clouds or tag clouds—on blogs and websites. Sometimes, bloggers will post a keyword analysis showing the categories they post about most often.

The keyword analysis examples shown here were made using a service called Wordle, which allows users to make these images and post them in a public web gallery.

As the reader, you can then examine the keyword analysis and interpret what it means. The keyword analysis shown in Example 1 analyzes President Obama’s 2011 speech announcing the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Example 2 analyzes the Supreme Court opinion for Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 decision that led to desegregation of American schools. And Example 3 analyzes the text of the Declaration of Independence from Britain of the American Colonies. In each case, the most common words tell you something about the text. For example, the word “children” figures prominently in Example 2, which you might interpret to mean that the Supreme Court justified their decision in part by appealing to the audience’s concern for children.

Who reads it?

Keyword analyses are usually read by visitors to websites, where they may be posted, or by scholars who study language and rhetoric. For example, a scholar hoping to analyze the language used in the Declaration of Independence might include a keyword analysis in a research paper.

What’s it for?

Keyword analyses can give you a sense of what a text is about. They provide a visual tool to help you interpret the text, giving insight into its main themes and ideas. For instance, in Example 3, you might notice that the word “powers” figures prominently. Why is this the case? You might look at instances of the word “powers” to determine why the word is so central to the Declaration of Independence.

Or, in Example 1, you might consider why the words “country” and “people” appear more prominently in the speech than such words as “justice” and “security.” What effects do these kinds of words have on an audience? If you wanted to say more about Obama’s speech, you might write a longer analysis using some of the tools of rhetoric. In fact, you could write a rhetorical analysis, an analysis genre that you will learn about later in this chapter.