UCLA Labor Center

Word Clouds

A word cloud or weighted list in visual design is a visual representation for text data, typically used to depict key word metadata or to visualize free form text. Tags are usually single words, and the importance of each tag can be shown with font size or color.  This format is useful for quickly perceiving the most prominent terms and for locating a term alphabetically to determine its relative prominence.

Watch this video to learn how to create a world cloud using the Wordle program. To create your wordle click here.

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Watch this video to learn how to create a world cloud using the Tagul program.
To use Tagul click here.

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Additional Resources

PDFlogoUsing Wordle as a Supplementary Research Tool

McNaught, C. & Lam, P. (2010). Using Wordle as a Supplementary Research Tool. The Qualitative Report, 15(03). 630-643. http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR15-3/mcnaught.pdf

A word cloud is a special visualization of text in which the more frequently used words are effectively highlighted by occupying more prominence in the representation. The authors have used Wordle to produce word-cloud analyses of the spoken and written responses of informants in two research projects.  In doing so, the authors elaborated on the possible uses of word clouds in educational research. The product demonstrates a fast and visually rich way to enable researchers to have some basic understanding of the data at hand. Word clouds can be a useful tool for preliminary analysis and for validation of previous findings. However, Wordle is an adjunct tool, so the authors do not recommend that this method be used as a stand-alone research tool comparable to traditional content analysis methods.

PDFlogoWord Clouds Considered Harmful by Jacob Harris

Harris, J. (2011, October 13). Word clouds considered harmful. Retrieved from http://www.niemanlab.org

In this article, Harris critiques the use of world clouds in journalism. The use of word clouds goes against the principles that journalists strive for in data journalism. Additionally, word clouds support only the crudest sorts of textual analysis, which could lead to misleading conclusions. More often, the use of world clouds are applied to situations where textual analysis is  appropriate. Furthermore, the word clouds don’t give a narrative, which leave readers to figure out the context of the data by themselves. Harris gives caution to the overuse word clouds goes into the many limitations that word cloud have.