High Performance Text Processing in R
R C++
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An R package that provides functions to facilitate high performance text analysis in R.


This package provides a number of functions to:

  • A front end for Stanford's CoreNLP libraries for POS tagging and finding named entities.
  • Term-category association analyses including PMI and TF-IDF, with various forms of weighting.
  • A front end for topic modeling using MALLET, that also reads the results back into R and presents them in a series of data.frames.
  • A set of methods to compare documents and document versions using sequences of n-grams, and ensembles of Dice coefficients.
  • An implementation of the informed Dirichlet model from Monroe et al. (2008), along with publication quality funnel plots.
  • Functions for forming complex contingency tables.
  • Functions of displaying text in LaTeX tables.
  • Functionality to read in a preprocess text data into a document-term matrix.

The unifying theme of these functions is that they are designed to be easy to use, and to operate on up to tens of billions of tokens over hundreds of millions of documents without requiring a massive map-reduce cluster with terabytes of RAM. I have decided to produce an R package since these are functions I use quite frequently andthey have been replicated in several projects. Check out the early version of the package vignette, avialable here!


Requirements for using C++ code with R

Note that if you are using a Mac, you will need to start by making sure you have Xcode + developer tools installed or you will not be able to compile the C++ code that is used in the samplers for this package. You will need to go here: https://developer.apple.com/xcode/downloads/ and then select the link to the additional downloads page which will prompt you to enter you apple ID. This will let you download the developer tools. This requirement is not unique to this package, but is necessary for all packages that use Rcpp.

If you are using a Windows machine, you will need to make sure you have the latest release of R (3.2.0+) and will also need to install Rtools (v33 or higher, available here http://cran.r-project.org/bin/windows/Rtools/) before you can use any packages with C++ code in them. It is also highly advised that you use RStudio to download and install the package as it seems to play nicer with Rcpp under Windows. You may also want to visit this blog post which has more information on making C++ work with R under Windows.

If you are using a Linux distro, make sure you have a C++ complier installed, but in general, you should not run into as many issues.

More generally, I suggest you check out this tutorial on using C++ with R. It goes over some of the code used in this package and also covers a number of potential prolems you might run into when trying to compile C++ code on your computer, so it is a good reference.

Installing The Package

To install this package from Github, you will need to Hadley Wickham's devtools package installed.


Now we can install from Github using the following line:


I have had success installing with R 3.2.0+ installed but please email me if you hit any issues.


The SpeedReader package currently provides the following functions to aid in the preprocessing of large text corpora.

  • generate_document_term_vectors() -- A function to ingest raw text data, either as .txt files, as R objects with one string per document, as R objects with a term vector per document, or as csv/tsv files with a column of unique words and (optionally) their counts. If providing raw text, cleaning and tokenization is currently provided using the included clean_document_text() function which makes use of regular expressions, but cleaning and NER will eventually be provided using Standford's CoreNLP libraries.
  • generate_blocked_document_term_vectors() -- A function to automate generating and saving to disk blocks of documents for corpora that are too large to fit in memory. Automatically formats data for downstream use in large scale text manipulation functions.
  • count_words() -- A function to count words in a provided document term vector list. Has the option to continue adding to a previously generated vocabulary/count object.
  • generate_document_term_matrix() -- A function to generate a document term matrix from a term-vector list object returned by generate_document_term_vectors(). Provides lots of options and will automatically generate a vocabulary if none is provided. Provides and option to return a sparse document-term matrix.
  • generate_sparse_large_document_term_matrix() -- The main function provided by the package. Will generate very large (sparse) document term matrices from very large vocabularies, in parallel, in a memory efficient manner.
  • sparse_to_dense_matrix() -- A helpful function for converting sparse matrix objects to dense matrix objects. Use with caution on large sparse matrices!
  • tfidf() -- Calculates and displays TF-IDF scores for a given document term matrix.
  • contingency_table() -- Generates a contingency table for a given document term matrix and set of document covariates.
  • pmi() -- Calculates a number of information theoretic quantities on a given contingency table.
  • corenlp() -- A wrapper for Stanfords wonderful CoreNLP libraries. Currently returns one dataframe per document with lots of CoreNLP token metadata including POS and NER tags. Also wraps syntactic parsing, and coreference resolution functionality as options.
  • mallet_lda() -- A wrapper for the incredibly efficient, robust and well tested implementation of latent Dirichlet allocation included in the MALLET libraries. Reads all output into R for easy reuse in other applications.
  • feature_selection() -- Allows the user to perform feature selection on a contingency table using a number of different formulations of TF-IDF as well as the informed Dirichlet model from the Monroe et al. "Fightin' Words" paper.
  • fightin_words_plot() -- Makes really nice looking funnel plots similar to those in the Monroe et al. "Fightin' Words" paper from the output of the feature_selection() function.
  • calculate_document_pair_distances() calculates cosine distances between pairs of documents for a given document-term matrix.
  • dice_coefficient_line_matching() -- Uses Dice coefficents calculated on token Bigrams to determine the number of lines/sentences in document 1 that are also in document 2 (based on some Dice coefficient threshold) and vice versa.
  • document_similarities() -- Calculates sequence based document similarity metrics (more details forthcoming). The implementation is extremely efficient and parallelizable, and can perform billions of document comparisons per day on a moderately sized HPC allocation (~40 cores).

The SpeedReader package also provides the following utility functions:

  • unlist_and_concatenate() -- A function to un-list and concatenate a subset of a matrix/data.frame
  • order_by_counts() -- A function to generate an ordered word count dataframe from a raw vector of words.
  • multi_plot() -- An implementation of matplot with nice coloring and automatic legend generation.
  • kill_zombies() -- A function which takes no arguments and kills zombie R processes if the user is using a UNIX based machine.
  • estimate_plots() -- A function to parameter estimate plots with 95 percent confidence bounds for up to two models we wish to compare.
  • distinct_words() -- A function to find (semi)-distinct words in a list of term vectors.
  • combine_document_term_matrices() -- A function to combine multiple document term matrices into a single aggregate document term matrix.
  • color_words_by_frequency() -- A function to generate LaTeX output from a dataframe containing words and their frequencies. With shading based on word frequency.
  • color_word_table() -- A function to generate LaTeX output from a dataframe containing covariates and top words.
  • clean_document_text() -- A function which cleans the raw text of a document provided either as a single string, a vector of strings, or a column of a data.frame.
  • topic_coherence() -- A function to calculate topic coherence for a given topic using the formulation in "Optimizing Semantic Coherence in Topic Models" available here:.
  • frequency_threshold() -- Finds combinations of covariate values that occur more than a spcified number of times.