Introduction to Web-Based Word Cloud Generators

A word cloud created with Tagul using the words from this blog post!

A word cloud created with Tagul using the words from this blog post!

If you’re in a pinch and need some kind of visualization to go along with a presentation or project, a word cloud can be an easy fix. Word clouds take the most frequently used words in a block of text and create a visual where the most frequently-occurring words appear larger, and smaller words are smaller. There are thousands of ways to create a word cloud, but these are a few simple generators that can help you out when you need a word cloud in a hurry.


TagCrowd is, perhaps, the simplest of all these generators to use, and one of the few generators that can create a word cloud from a URL. Simply paste the text or URL, or upload a file to TagCrowd and it will create a blue word cloud for you. There aren’t many options as far as styling goes — unlike some of the other generators we’ll be looking at — but it could not be simpler. The options that TagCrowd does give you are: language, maximum number of words, minimum frequency of words, show frequencies, group similar words, convert to lowercase, and exclusion of certain words.

That being said, be careful when you use a URL with TagCrowd. Below are two examples: the first, I copy-pasted the text of David Sedaris’ essay “Stepping Out” from The New Yorker. The second, I used the URL for the story, rather than the text. The two clouds were entirely different, and the URL didn’t give me the actual words from the story.

The TagCrowd cloud from the copy-pasted text.

The TagCrowd cloud from the copy-pasted text.

The TagCrowd cloud from the URL.

The TagCrowd cloud from the URL. provides more options than TagCrowd, and produces more aesthetically pleasing — though, perhaps, less simple to read and understand — word clouds. You can input text through copy-pasting, through a text or PDF file, as well as through a URL. Notably, the URL option works better at also lets you customize your image, by fitting the word cloud into particular shapes, as well as offering different color schemes and fonts. It is also easier to get data about the frequency of word usage on, and it allows you to save/share your word cloud in a variety of formats. Overall, is a whimsical alternative for generating a word cloud. Below are two word clouds I created using the Sedaris essay from its URL. I chose a checkmark shape for the first cloud, and the second is an automatically-generated rainbow.


I chose to shape my word cloud as a check mark with


The rainbow option is fun and easy to use, though maybe not the most easily readable option on


And finally, we have Tagul. Tagul is the most complicated of these three options, but also allows you to the most customization and options for your word cloud. Tagul allows you to add/subtract words easily from your word cloud, as well as give you a number of shapes, fonts, color and animation options for your word cloud. You can make something as simple as a circle in one color, or an emoji smiley face that has the word pop up when you hover over it. You will probably spend more time creating your word cloud on Tagul, but you can really make sure you’re getting what you want. Below are two word clouds — one simple, one more complicated — created with copy-pasted text from Sedaris’ essay.


Our more dramatic word cloud made with Tagul.


A simpler and easy to read word cloud created with Tagul.

There are many other options for creating word clouds, but these are three easy websites that you can use when you need a word cloud and you need one quick.

Best Practices Resources: The Research Clinic

Mary Homans, John Staley and Edward Till, working on a model of a proposed NYA (National Youth Administration) training camp at the Landscape Architectural School. Iowa State College. Ames, Iowa

Jack Delano, “Mary Homans, John Staley and Edward Till, working on a model of a proposed NYA (National Youth Administration) training camp at the Landscape Architectural School. Iowa State College. Ames, Iowa.” Negative. May 1942. Library of Congress collection of Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives, Accessed September 6, 2016.

As a researcher, it can sometimes be difficult to draw the line between what is and is not appropriate behavior while working with those participating in your project. That’s why the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) and the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) created “The Research Clinic,” an interactive training video, which can help researchers learn how to protect their research participants and to avoid misconduct.

Now, it’s not quite World of Warcraft, but you choose one of four characters (my personal favorite is Megan Boyle, “a research assistant who has difficulties obtaining informed consent and following research protocols” who has a lot of student loan debt) and work through different video scenarios as that character. The goal of the program is to go back in time, and figure out what steps your character should have taken in order to have done their research ethically. The tutorial also links the viewer to optional information about aspects of the research process they need some extra information on.

“The Research Clinic” manages to mix an ethics lesson with an online game that mimics a game of whodunit with engaging humor and personality. However, in order to use it, one needs an up-to-date version of Adobe Flash Player, as well as a good Internet connection, as the videos can take time to load. “The Research Clinic” has several accessibility options, including closed captions and text voice over, as well as several keyboard shortcuts for easy movement throughout the series.

An important aspect of “The Research Clinic” is the human aspect. Each character’s story begins with some information about their life and personality, which allows you to get to know them, and to sympathize with their situation. It humanizes the researchers, and reminds the viewer that people who engage in research misconduct may not necessarily be bad people, going out of their way to tamper with evidence as they laugh manically and twist their mustache. Rather, research misconduct can occur when people are put into stressful situations and make a bad decision (or three).

The right decision may not necessarily be the easy decision, but when you’re working with human participants, taking the time to think about what you will do can make all the difference.