Welcome to the General Inquirer
We mourn the loss of Philip Stone who died on January 31st, 2006, and we dedicate the continuation of this site to his memory. Established as the home website for the General Inquirer, a computer-assisted
approach for content analyses of textual data, the site is designed to be
a resource for learning about the Inquirer as well as a reference in using
For a copy of the "Strengths Compared" powerpoint presented at the Positive Psychology Conference, click here for the web version and here for the power point file to download.
A note on email contact.
You may contact Roger Hurwitz with questions about access to the General Inquirer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A reminder in the original page still holds true: please put "Inquirer" as the first word in any email you send to Roger. The account hosting this site is not being monitored for email, so please do not send messages to
inquirer at wjh.harvard.edu.
The NSF-Sponsored "WebUse" project at the University of Maryland, developed by
John Robinson and his staff, provides an opportunity to try out the General
Inquirer on text you supply. THIS IS A DEMO SITE, FOR USE WITH SHORT AMOUNTS OF
TEXT. We received numerous emails about the
site being down, but it was back up when last checked. Link to it at:
http://www.webuse.umd.edu. The Inquirer is listed
under "Resources" at the left of this page. You can type or paste text into the
box and obtain different levels of feedback, depending on the checks you make below
For serious amounts of text processing, the General Inquirer is now
available on a server, so
users no longer have to download the system to their own computers.
The rationale for using a server-bsed Inquirer was presented intially a blog which is no longer available. We have extracted the major article from the blog here for your reference.
To use the server-based version, you will need to establish a project account on
the server. Check the server's homepage to arrange this or contact Roger Hurwitz (email@example.com)
General Inquirer development has been supported by grants from the USA
National Science Foundation and Research Grant Councils of Great Britainand Australia. Until the mid-1990's, it only operated on large mainframe
IBM computers that supported the PL/1 programming language. However with
its reprogramming supported by the Gallup Organization, first in TrueBasic
by Philip Stone and then in Java by Vanja Buvac, the system now provides
English-language content analysis capabilities using both the "Harvard"
and "Lasswell" general-purpose dictionaries as well as any dictionary
categories developed by the user. With today's PC's or Macs, the system,
including its disambiguation routines for high-frequency English
homographs, usually processes text files on the order of a million words
an hour. However, it is not packaged to be commercially available, nor do
we intend to commit ourselves to providing the support services such
availability would require.
For the last several years, we have made the system available for academic
research purposes. In addition to a seminar at Harvard, workshops with
laboratories have been taught at Essex University (as part of the European Social
Science Consortium program) and at a large Cologne sociology conference on research
methods. Our Java software (which operates on PC, Mac, Unix or Linux, including
the Mac's OSX Terminal), together with dictionaries, and disambiguation rules, can
be downloaded as a zipped file. Perhaps the Inquirer users don't want to bother
us, but none of those who have used the system have reported any software-caused
crashes or other difficulties. The Inquirer runs on any recent-vintage PC or Mac
computer, using less RAM than current versions of MS Word. To obtain a copy for
academic purposes, please email us from your "edu" address. Please comply
documentation that comes the the download, including the request not to
distribute the General Inquirer on your own. And please send us copies of
publications stemming from the use of the system.
The Java software has been augmented with an optional "word" output
in which counts are provided for each word and word sense match (after
any necessary suffix removals) in the combined Harvard/Lasswell
dictionaries, as well as the frequency of every unmatched "leftover" word
appearing in the texts that is not in these dictionaries. The output
matrix can be large, with rows for every word and word sense appearing in
the text, followed by rows for leftover words, with a column of raw
counts for each text file processed. However, this can be very useful
for drilling down further on your data, revising and expanding
categories, and new category development.
For an excellent general introduction to content analysis, we highly
recommend "The Content Analysis Guidebook" by Kimberly Neuendorf,
published a year ago by Sage Publications. While we continue to think of
content analysis as a "mapping" operation, rather than the "summarizing"
operation she describes, we generally agree with her point of view and
appreciate her thoughtful treatment of many topics regarding content
analysis. For access to the on-line site for this book, click here.
This website is divided into several sections, giving both information
about the Inquirer and pointers to other systems. Our website pages include
links to the first hundred words of each category in both the Harvard and
This web page has been visited
times since its last
extensive revision on September 12, 2002.
1) For an opportunity to try out the Inquirer on a moderate amount of text
and see what it does, try linking to the "Webuse" site. For several years, we used an Apple
computer configured as a Linux server to provide this Internet access, which was was
recommended in Neuendorf's book and elsewhere. The WebUse Project at the University of
Maryland then made this capability available on their server. The "Webuse" site only provides
applications of the Harvard dictionary categories, not the Lasswell dictionary categories.
Note that the full listing for each category, not just the first 100 entries, can be found on
this site at http://www.webuse.umd.edu:9090/tags/.
2) For information on how the General Inquirer is used and
a comparison of the General Inquirer with other
approaches, a useful next step might be to click here.
3) For information about the General Inquirer merged
Harvard-IV-4 and Lasswell dictionaries and descriptions of 182
General Inquirer tag categories, click here.
4) For information about the General Inquirer marker
categories as part of the General Inquirer dictionaries, click
5) For information on how to prepare text, name text files,
and organize files into folders as input to the General Inquirer,
6) For an example of the new spreadsheet output format
produced by the General Inquirer, click here.
7) For some basic suggestions about how to develop new General
Inquirer categories, click here.
8) For information about a new Inquirer multiword
dictionary-entry feature, which exists for the TrueBasic version
of the Inquirer but is yet to be implemented for the Java version, click
Special pages for General Inquirer
For a published overview of our perspective on content analysis
challenges, see: P.J. Stone, "Thematic text analysis: new agendas
for analyzing text content." which appears as chapter 2 in Text
Analysis for the Social Sciences edited by Carl Roberts
(Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 1997)
email address: firstname.lastname@example.org