Analysing Poems Using Online Tools

This tutorial was first published in 1998. It has been revised since to include new online tools (2006 and 2022).


The use of computers for the study of literary works has been a major part of humanities research for many years. This seminar illustrates how, by using a variety of free online tools, students can gain a quick insight into certain uses of language by the poets of the First World War. We provide some step-by-step instructions for the specific tool we use here, but you can repeat the exercises using a tool of your choice. To use this tutorial you simply need to be connected to the internet via a web browser, and to know how to ‘cut and paste’. At various points you will be taken to online text analysis tools and asked to ‘cut and paste’ the text of the poems into a window in a web browser.

Under 'Explore what you can do ...' you will see a range of options (Word Clouds, etc). Select one of these, read what you can expect to see, and then follow the instructions on what tool to use and how to copy/paste in the poems.


The Tools

This tutorial makes use of tools that can be used online for free (further details at the bottom of this page), but similar functionality can be found in other applications, both ones that you install on your computer and ones that you can use online in your web browser. Use your preferred internet search engine to find and explore other options.

We are grateful to the creators for generously providing access to their tools:

  • Voyant Tools: Sinclair, Stéfan and Geoffrey Rockwell, 2016. Voyant Tools. Web.
    • “Voyant Tools is a web-based text reading and analysis environment. It is a scholarly project that is designed to facilitate reading and interpretive practices for digital humanities students and scholars as well as for the general public.”
  • Davies, Mark, (2008- )
  • IntelliText Interface designed by designed by Serge Sharoff, University of Leeds
  • “The Intelligent Tools for Creating and Analysing Electronic Text Corpora for Humanities Research (IntelliText) project aims to facilitate corpus use for academics working in various areas of the humanities”.

Poem Text Files

Below you will find links to collections of poems by various war poets. In text analysis we generally refer to these as a ‘corpus’ or a body of text (plural ‘corpora’). All the files are in ‘plain text’ format, i.e. without any formatting such as bold or italics, and thus should be easily opened in any word-processor (e.g. Notepad, Word, TextEdit, etc). You can download them to your computer or open them in your web browser.

Not all the war poets are represented, and instead we have chosen those who represent differing styles to demonstrate what can be done with text analysis. You can repeat the exercises with other texts.

Only the text of the poems are used, i.e. none of the commentary found in scholarly editions, as this seminar is supposed to be an analysis of the poetry, not of the entire books themselves.

To analyse the texts with the Voyant Tools, you can either go to the page, copy the text, and paste it into the tool, as described in the exercises. Alternatively, you can simply copy the URL of the page where the text is found and past that instead. The easiest way to do this is probably to 'right-click' on the relevant link below and select 'Copy link' (or similar on your computer).

Poems of Wilfred Owen
Poems of Edward Thomas
Poems of Robert Graves
Poems of Isaac Rosenberg
Poems of Roland Leighton

The texts used for this tutorial is drawn from the collections contributed to the project by ProQuest.