Michael Sandler sent me a link to this Boston Globe article about how researchers are using a new tool, Google Books Ngram Viewer, to examine social/cultural trends in language use.
The Ngram viewer graphs the occurrence of any word/phrase you type in across the 15 million books Google has scanned into their database. You can even enter multiple phrases to get multiple lines.
This interactive link from the Boston Globe article is a good "taste" of what the Ngram Viewer can do (the Boston-centric bias of the terms included in the graph made me laugh too :) but I had fun just diving into the actual Ngram viewer and typing in some phrases. The phrase "high school psychology" has interesting peaks and valleys!
I liked this quote from the Boston Globe article: "Going forward, digital humanities researchers have increasingly powerful tools, but the challenge will be interpretation — finding links between quantity and meaning." This might be a good "angle" to use in a psych class during research methods: What research method(s) would students use along with Ngram viewer to try to get at "links between quantity and meaning"? Naturalistic Observation researchers have been grappling with this question for years, right?
posted by Rob McEntarffer