Google Ngram viewer

This google facility is a spin off from the Google Books project, the digitisation of all the books on the planet.

Google Ngram Viewer will display a graph depicting the frequency of the use of terms in a chosen selection of books over a nominated time period. You can compare phrases by putting two or more in the same query.

This is a good example of new research methods arising from the increasing role of all things digital that was mentioned under computational social science.

Google provides a good set of notes about the facility and there is also a good resource at Harvard's cultural observatory.

Here is a good example of the kind of analysis that this facility allows.

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