Media Cloud

User Guide

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1.Dashboard

The Media Meter Dashboard is the easiest way to start using Media Cloud– additional tools and a public API are also available. It allows you to search our database of news and retrieve a series of outputs, such as graphs, word clouds, sentences, and URLs (see OUTPUTS below).

In order to make full use of the Dashboard you should create an account. You will need to provide an email address, your name, a brief note about your intended use, and a password. Once you have an account, you can sign in to the Dashboard in the upper right corner and start building queries.

In order to build a query you need to provide the keyword(s) or phrase(s) you are interested in, select a source or set of sources, and provide a date range.

 

1.1.Keywords

The first step in building a query consists in choosing the words or phrases to search for and entering them into the “search for” field.

An important issue to take into consideration when searching the Media Cloud database is that it currently searches at the sentence level for the keywords you entered. That is, if you search for “refugees” AND “Lebanon” it will retrieve any sentence (and the URL of any article containing that sentence) where both words appear. If they appear in the same article but not in the same sentence that article will not be considered relevant and will not be retrieved.

By default, a Dashboard search will look for your keywords in the body of the articles. However, you can change that default and search only within the headlines of the articles. Simply type title: before any keywords you are searching for.

In order to build queries a few elements need to be considered:

Boolean connectors:

  • OR: This is the default connector for queries. That is, if you enter a list of words without a Boolean connector, or a list of words connected by OR, the query will retrieve sentences that contain any of the words in your list.
  • AND: Using AND to connect terms in your query will allow you to find sentences in which all the terms appear. This is particularly useful when the terms you are looking for do not always appear in the same order–if they do, quotation marks should be used.
  • NOT: In order to refine a search it is often useful to eliminate from your query results those sentences in which a certain term appears. For instance, if you are interested in finding information about the zika virus, but not about its incidence in Brazil, you can search for zika AND NOT Brazil.

Special characters

  • Quotations: When searching for a phrase (a series of words that always appear in the same order) it is necessary to use quotation marks. For instance, if you are interested in the phrase key issue, you should search for “key issue”, otherwise you will get all sentences with the word key OR the word issue. You should also take into account that not all quotation marks are born equal, and if you cut a paste a query that uses quotation marks from a program like Word, Media Meter will not understand them. It is advisable to use Notepad or similar, or directly type your query on the dashboard.
  • Parentheses: If your query is somewhat complex you will probably need to use parentheses to structure it and nest search terms. For instance, a query such as (“key issue”) AND (politics OR economy OR campaign) will retrieve any sentence containing the phrase “key issue” AND any of the other three terms.
  • Hyphens: When searching for terms written with a hyphen (well-being, for instance) it is always necessary to place them between quotation marks (otherwise Media Meter will not understand them). You should consider though that searching for a hyphenated word between quotation marks will retrieve that hyphenated word but also the consecutive occurrences of the two words. That is, a search for “well-being” will retrieve hits for “well-being” but also for “well being”.
  • Other characters: The Media Meter dashboard does not store punctuation, so searching for @POTUS or #POTUS is equivalent to searching for POTUS, even if you place them between quotation marks.

Capital letters, plurals, and stemming:

Queries are NOT case sensitive, and you can thus use lowercase or capital letters.

Media Meter takes singular and plural forms of a word to be different words (that is, searching for key will produce different results than searching for keys). If you would like to search for both plural and singular forms of a word, you should enter both or use a wild search (see below).

If you are interested in searching for all the different forms of a word, you should use the wildcard symbol *. For instance, searching for key* will retrieve not only key and keys, but also keyboard, keystone, keynote, keynesian, keywords, etc. If you want to search for only one wildcard character, you can use the ? character to represent any single character. That is, searching for kee? will retrieve sentences with the words keep, keen, etc.

You can find detailed information about query syntax here.

1.2.Selecting Sources

The second element of any query is the list of sources to search into. While it is possible to search into the full collection of Media Cloud sources it is advisable to restrict searches to specific media or specific collections since the collection as a whole is not representative of any single coherent media system. The default collection when you first arrive at Media Meter is U.S. Mainstream Media, but you can easily change that by clicking on “add media” and typing the name of the source you are interested in. You will see a dropdown menu with suggestion derived from what you typed—the system will try to guess what you are looking for from what you type, so try different spellings if you are not finding what you are looking for at first. Clicking on any of the sources in the dropdown menu will automatically add it to the list of selected sources– you can remove any of the sources by clicking on the circled x next to their name. To get a sense of the collections in the database you can use the Sources tool.

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