Three Gaps in Computational Text Analysis Methods for Social Sciences: A Research Agenda


We identify three gaps that limit the utility and obstruct the progress of computational text analysis methods (CTAM) for social science research. First, we contend that CTAM development has prioritized technological over validity concerns, giving limited attention to the operationalization of social scientific measurements. Second, we identify a mismatch between CTAMs’ focus on extracting specific contents and document-level patterns, and social science researchers’ need for measuring multiple, often complex contents in the text. Third, we argue that the dominance of English language tools depresses comparative research and inclusivity toward scholarly communities examining languages other than English. We substantiate our claims by drawing upon a broad review of methodological work in the computational social sciences, as well as an inventory of leading research publications using quantitative textual analysis. Subsequently, we discuss implications of these three gaps for social scientists’ uneven uptake of CTAM, as well as the field of computational social science text research as a whole. Finally, we propose a research agenda intended to bridge the identified gaps and improve the validity, utility, and inclusiveness of CTAM.

In Communication Methods and Measures
Christian Pipal
Christian Pipal
Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science