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Introduction to Quantitative Text Analysis

Member rate £492.50
Non-Member rate £985.00

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*If you attended our Methods School in July/August 2023 or February 2024.

Course Dates and Times

Monday 5 to Friday 9 March 2018
15 hours over 5 days

Kostas Gemenis

Cyprus University of Technology

The course will introduce participants to the family of quantitative text analysis methods in the ‘content analysis’ tradition using a variety of examples from political science and related disciplines. The course will cover the basic aspects of content analysis starting with manual content analysis and continuing with an introduction to some of the most popular approaches to computer-assisted text analysis. The course will cover practical aspects of text analysis, such as creating coding schemes, selecting documents, assessing inter-coder reliability, scaling, and validating the text analysis output. The course will be taught in a mix of lectures and seminars and participants will have the opportunity to practice on hands-on exercises. The majority of the exercises will be completed by following, step-by-step, code provided in the R statistical software, so previous knowledge of R will not be necessary. In addition, participants will be able to present their own project in class and receive feedback.


Tasks for ECTS Credits

  • Participants attending the course: 2 credits (pass/fail grade) The workload for the calculation of ECTS credits is based on the assumption that students attend classes and carry out the necessary reading and/or other work prior to, and after, classes.
  • Participants attending the course and completing one task (see below): 3 credits (to be graded)
  • Participants attending the course, and completing two tasks (see below): 4 credits (to be graded)
  1. For 3 ECTS credits: Three (3) daily assignments to be completed by Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings. The assignments will be based on the methods that will be illustrated during the seminars of the same days.
  2. For 4 ECTS credits: The above mentioned assignments plus a seated multiple choice exam.



Instructor Bio

Kostas Gemenis is Senior Researcher in Quantitative Methods at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.

His research interests include measurement in the social sciences, and content analysis with applications to estimating the policy positions of political actors.

He is currently involved in Preference Matcher, a consortium of researchers who collaborate in developing e-literacy tools designed to enhance voter education.


Most social science concepts are not directly observable, text analysis can provide a useful method in which we can measure quantities of interest that are otherwise difficult to estimate. For instance, by analysing the speeches of legislators, we can classify them as charismatic, populist, authoritarian, liberal, and so on. Similarly, by analysing the content of newspaper editorials, we can infer whether the media in question were biased in favour of a particular candidate during an election campaign.

Text analysis is a specific case of content analysis, typically defined as a method whose goal is to summarize a body of information in the form of text, in order to make inferences about the actor behind this body of information. This implies that text analysis can be seen as a data reduction method since its goal is to reduce the text material in to more manageable bits of information. Text analysis can be also seen as a method for descriptive inference. Weber (1990, p. 9) for instance, defines content analysis as ‘a method that uses a set of procedures to make valid inferences from text’. The idea is that, by analysing the textual output of an actor, we can infer something about this actor. This conceptualization of content and text analysis implies that we can use it as a tool for measurement in the social sciences. In this view of content analysis we are concerned with replicability and objectivity, (Neuendorf 2002, pp. 10-15), and therefore we should distinguish text analysis from other approaches/methods such as discourse analysis, rhetorical analysis, constructivism, ethnography and so on.

The course intends to familiarize participants with both manual and computer-assisted text analysis. Following Krippenforff (2004) and Neuendorf (2002), the course will introduce participants to the basic concepts and building blocks in content analysis designs. For instance, the following questions will be addressed and discussed during the course:

  • Coding scheme (What are the theoretical underpinnings of the coding scheme? How are the categories selected and operationalized? What are the coding units? How is coding performed? Is our coding scheme valid?)
  • Selection of documents (What guides the selection of texts? Are texts sufficiently comparable? Are our documents valid and reliable indicators of the quantities of interest? How can we acquire and process text for computer-assisted text analysis?)
  • Aggregation (Are texts coded by different coders? If so, how are their results aggregated? If not, how can we ensure inter-coder reliability? What statistical measures can be used to estimate inter-coder reliability?)
  • Scaling (Are we estimating the quantities of interest directly? If not, how do we scale data in order to estimate the quantities of interest? Is our scaling valid and reliable?)

For manual text analysis, the course will also look at the, often overlooked, distinction between the analysis of manifest content and judgemental coding. For computer-assisted text analysis, the course will offer an introduction to a variety of popular methods, such as the use of  content analysis dictionaries (including sentiment analysis), scaling methods (wordscores, wordfish), and supervised and unsupervised learning approaches (including topic models). The course will look discuss the relationship between reliability and validity, illustrate methods for estimating inter-coder reliability, and explore the links between manual and computer-assisted text analysis in terms of validation and training of supervised classificatio methods..

The course will be taught in a mix of lectures and seminars and participants will have the opportunity to practice on hands-on exercises. The examples used to illustrate the promises as well as the pitfalls of content analysis will be concerned with various applications across the social sciences (e.g. sentiment analysis of the press, frames analysis of social movements, estimating the positions of political actors, agenda-setting in the EU), while the majority of the exercises will be completed by following, step-by-step, code provided in the R statistical software, so that previous knowledge of R will not be necessary. In most of the seminars we will use R Studio. Follow the link for download instructions: In addition, participants will be able to present their own project in class and receive feedback.

Participants are expected to be familiar with basic statistical concepts such as measures of central tendency (mean, median), dispersion (standard deviation), tests of association (Pearson’s r) and inference (χ2, t-test). These material are covered in the first few chapters of introductory statistics or data analysis textbooks. A useful example is Pollock P.H. III, The Essentials of Political Analysis, fourth edition (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2012), Chapters 2, 3, 6, and 7. Some familiarity with R statistical software is also desirable but not necessary. In most of the seminars we will use R Studio.

Day Topic Details
1 -Introduction and manual coding of text -Inter-coder reliability

Lecture (90 mins.)

  • Brief presentation of participants and their research projects
  • Key concepts in content analysis
  •  Best practices for defining a coding scheme, selecting the appropriate documents, coding the documents; scaling the coded data.
  • Designing a manual content analysis project.
  • Latent coding and crowdsourcing.

Seminar (90 mins.)

  • Reliability and validity and their relationship to measurement error
  • Estimating inter-coder reliability using Krippendorff's alpha
2 -Document pre-processing and dictionary methods -Sentiment analysis in R

Lecture (90 mins.)

  • The promises of computer-assisted content analysis (and four rules for good practice)
  • Selecting, cleaning and formatting documents
  • Computer-assisted content analysis and dictionary construction

Seminar (90 mins.)

  • Illustration of the dictionary use in sentiment analysis
  • Validating sentiment analysis
  • Effective data visualization and inference in content analysis
3 -Scaling methods in text analysis -Wordscores and Wordfish in R

Lecture (90 mins.)

  • Scaling models in text analysis and their assumptions
  • Supervised method: Wordscores
  • Unsupervised method: Wordfish

Seminar (90 mins.)

  • Illustration of Wordscores and Wordfish
  • Validating scaling methods
4 -Supervised classification methods -Μachine/statistical learning in R

Lecture (90 mins.)

  • Classification models in text analysis
  • Supervised methods
  • Evaluation metrics

Seminar (90 mins.)

  • Illustration of supervised machine/statistical learning methods
5 -Unsupervised classification methods -Topic models in R

Lecture (90 mins.)

  • Topic models in text analysis
  • Comparisons and trade-offs in content analysis

Seminar (90 mins.)

  • Illustration of LDA
  • Validating topic models
Day Readings

For the precise literature references, see reference list below.


Hayes and Krippendorff (2007), Krippendorff (2004), Neuendorf (2002), optional: Benoit et al. (2015), Gemenis (2015)


Grimmer and Stewart (2013), Laver and Garry (2000), Young and Soroka (2012)


Grimmer and Stewart (2013), Laver et al. (2003), Slapin and Proksch (2008), Bruinsma and Gemenis (2017)


Grimmer and Stewart (2013)


Grimmer and Stewart (2013), Hopkins and King (2010), Van der Zwaan et al. (2016).

Software Requirements

- R and R Studio

- Yoshikoder, Lexicoder, and Jfreq free software downloads

Hardware Requirements



Benoit, Kenneth, Drew Conway, Benjamin E. Lauderdale, Michael Laver, and Slava Mikhaylov (2015) Crowd-sourced text analysis: reproducible and agile production of political data. American Political Science Review 110: 278-295.

Bruinsma, Bastiaan and Kostas Gemenis (2017) Validating Wordscores,

Gemenis, K. (2015) An iterative expert survey approach for estimating parties’ policy positions. Quality & Quantity, 49: 2291-2306.

Grimmer, Justin, and Brandon M. Stewart (2013) Text as data: The promise and pitfalls of automatic content analysis methods for political texts. Political Analysis 21: 267–297.

Hayes, Andrew F., and Klaus Krippendorff (2007) Answering the call for a standard reliability measure for coding data. Communication Methods and Measures 1: 77–89.

Hopkins, Daniel J., and Gary King (2010) A method of automated nonparametric content analysis for social science. American Journal of Political Science 54: 229-247.

Krippendorff, Klaus (2004) Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology, second edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, Chapters 5 (unitizing) and 7 (coding)

Laver, Michael, Kenneth Benoit, and John Garry (2003) Extracting policy positions from political texts using words as data. American Political Science Review 97: 311–331.

Laver, Michael, and John Garry (2000) Estimating policy positions from political texts. American Journal of Political Science 44: 619–634.

Neuendorf, Kimberly A. (2002) The content analysis guidebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, Chapter 1 (defining content analysis)

Slapin, Jonathan B., and SvenOliver Proksch (2008) A scaling model for estimating time-series party positions from texts. American Journal of Political Science 52: 705–722.

van der Zwaan, J. M., Marx, M., & Kamps, J. (2016). Validating Cross-Perspective Topic Modeling for Extracting Political Parties' Positions from Parliamentary Proceedings. In ECAI (pp. 28-36).

Young, Lori, and Stuart Soroka (2012) Affective news: The automated coding of sentiment in political texts. Political Communication 29: 205–231.

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Summer School

R Basics

Introduction to Inferential Statistics: What you need to know before you take regression

Winter School

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Introduction to R (entry level)


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