ARDA Working Papers Series


Reviewing Millions of Books: Charting Cultural and Religious Trends with Google's Ngram Viewer

Roger Finke
Pennsylvania State University

Jennifer M. McClure
Samford University

Roger Finke
Pennsylvania State University
Jennifer M. McClure
Samford University

Despite the importance of trend data for understanding key substantive and theoretical questions on American religion, almost no such data exist. This paper reviews how the Google Ngram Viewer and the Google book collection can generate detailed measures on religious trends. After demonstrating how the trends are generated, we evaluate the promise and potential limitations of these measures. Do the trends charted by the Ngram Viewer match known cultural and religious trends and is the pool of book authors and readers representative of the larger culture? We conclude with a discussion on how the tool can be used most effectively for future research.

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