Visualising themes in the Plowden Report

By Gordon Rugg

I’ve recently started looking at the Plowden Report, mainly because of my interest in sociotechnical issues. The method I was using may be interesting and useful to readers, so this article is a quick overview of the method.

I’ve been using the Search Visualizer software, which is available free online. (Declaration of interest: I’m co-inventor of the software.)

The software shows you where your chosen keywords occur within a text, representing each keyword as a colour-coded square, as if you’d gone through the document highlighting every occurrence of your keywords, and then miniaturised the document so you could see large sections of it at a time.

This is particularly useful when you’re dealing with very large texts, since it allows you to see patterns of distributions. It turns out, for instance, that there’s a fair amount in Plowden about furniture, and that most of those mentions are in one section of the report.

The image below shows where the word “classroom” appears (green dots) at the start of Volume 2 of Plowden.

Slide1Image copyleft Search Visualizer, 2014

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