Voyant Exploration of an Academic Writing

 Zhang Bei

I chose an English paper from The International Journal for Translation and Interpreting research. The paper is entitled “Towards understanding interpreter trainees’ (de)motivation: An exploratory study”, and this study is about profiling interpreter trainees’(de)motivation and examining the correlation of (de)motivation factors in a Chinese context. As this paper will be one of the references in my postgraduate thesis, I find it both interesting and useful to be explored by Voyant Tools.

I first transformed the file format from pdf to text and then deleted footnote, page footer and information about the author and the journal in the text. In this way, I will have a more content-focused text without interferences of irrelevant words to the Voyant Tool revelation and I saved this text as “1. Full text”. After I uploaded the file and clicked “reveal”, I found five most frequently used words—“motivation”, “trainees”, “interpreting”, “interpreter”, “self” and these words show up respectively for 106, 97, 76, 75 and 50 times.

Compared with the keywords in the paper, these five most frequent words are not so revealing. The keywords in the paper can immediately make me understand what the paper is about while the most frequent words counted by Voyant are a little confusing and redundant. Because “self” does not associate readers with anything about the topic of the paper unless they know “self” is one of internal motivators. And “trainees” and “interpreter” overlap a bit in their meanings. Hence this finding reminds me that keywords do not equal to the most frequent words in academic writings.

An interesting thing is that “(De)motivation”, “(de)motivators”, “(de)motivate” show up 20 times in total. However, I did not find these three words at the “Terms” on the top left column on Voyant interface. I think it is because Voyant cannot distinguish compound words with parentheses and automatically regard the “de” within the parentheses as one word and the “motivation” as one word. That means Voyant will automatically ignore words in the parenthesis. Although I did see terms like “demotivation” and “demotivator” which appear for 40 and 7 times separately as counted by Voyant “Terms”. But it’s because these two words are written like such (namely, without parenthesis) in the text. And I used “search” function on the adobe acrobat 9 Pro to search and counted the two words and the results proved my thought.

I also checked the “Correlation” on the right bottom of the Voyant interface. And I found although those terms are highly correlated, they do not represent anything because these words are just statistically correlated but not meaningfully.

In conclusion, I read all the tutorials on Voyant tools and tried all the tools on different panels at the Voyant interface. I also made adjustments to the text by cutting it into several new files according to its sections. This way allowed me to learn more specifically about how the author composed different sections and integrated these sections into one paper. (Due to words limit, I will not discuss those findings.)  Every time I adjusted the file, the revelation on Voyant would change. I found it interesting but in the meantime I think convenient as Voyant is, it is still just a tool. Users should not completely believe the statistical results and try all means to interpret those results which would sometimes lead to far-fetching explanations. After all, words sometimes do not mean their literal meanings because sometimes authors say something while means another, especially in literature. Therefore, it is better to interpret Voyant revelations with a grain of salt.



Sinclar, S. & G. Rockwell. (2018). Voyant Tools. Retrieved Febuary 11, 2018, from http://voyant-tools. org.

Sinclar, S. & G. Rockwell. (2018). Voyant Tools. Retrieved Febuary 11, 2018, from https://voyant-tools.org/?corpus=178f739d8b0de57929995913e5d35d3d&panels=cirrus,reader,trends,summary,contexts.

Wu, Z. (2016). Towards understanding interpreter trainee’s (de)motivation: An explanatory study. The international journal for translation and interpreting research. 8(2): 13-25.


Hi. I am Zhang Bei. I come from China. My major is English interpretation. I am now an exchange student in UiO for one semester.

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