Chapter 5. Converting to and from Nontidy Formats

In the previous chapters, we’ve been analyzing text arranged in the tidy text format: a table with one token per document per row, such as is constructed by the function unnest_tokens(). This lets us use the popular suite of tidy tools such as dplyr, tidyr, and ggplot2 to explore and visualize text data. We’ve demonstrated that many informative text analyses can be performed using these tools.

However, most of the existing R tools for natural language processing, besides the tidytext package, aren’t compatible with this format. The CRAN Task View for Natural Language Processing lists a large selection of packages that take other structures of input and provide nontidy outputs. These packages are very useful in text mining applications, and many existing text datasets are structured according to these formats.

Computer scientist Hal Abelson has observed that, “No matter how complex and polished the individual operations are, it is often the quality of the glue that most directly determines the power of the system” (Abelson 2008). In that spirit, this chapter will discuss the “glue” that connects the tidy text format with other important packages and data structures, allowing you to rely on both existing text mining packages and the suite of tidy tools to perform your analysis.

Figure 5-1 illustrates how an analysis might switch between tidy and nontidy data structures and tools. This chapter will focus on the process of tidying ...

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