Getting Started With Sentiment Analysis

Original article was published by on AI Magazine

Sentiment Analysis

The goal of sentiment analysis is to interpret and classify subjective data using natural language processing and machine learning.

Sentiment analysis is a very important feat in business today as the world has become much more digitalized, even more so since Covid-19. Many businesses employ sentiment analysis to detect social data, get a better understanding of their brand’s reputation, understand their customers in the digital world.

For instance, a business (or whoever) may decide to use sentiment analysis to automatically determine the polarity of a tweet made about their company (or whatever) in order to gain a better understanding of their brand’s reputation; This task may be defined as a supervised learning problem where we feed Input Features to a predictive model and get an output.

Figure 1: The Sentiment analysis problem

In order for us to perform sentiment analysis, we must first represent our text as features (what we represented as X in Figure 1), since computers do not understand text, before we can use it to classify text.

Well, how do we extract features? Great question. There are many ways. However, before we extract our features and build a Logistic Regression model to classify the sentiment of our data, we must discuss text preprocessing.

Text Preprocessing

Text on the internet is often defined as unstructured data — Unstructured data is information that either does not have a pre-defined data model or is not organized in a pre-defined manner (Source: Wikipedia). Therefore, text preprocessing is simply the task of organising our text into a predefined manner or into a predefined data model.

There are various techniques we can employ to preprocess our text, however for this post we will focus mainly on a few;


Probably the most simple form of text preprocessing where we ensure all of our text is written in lowercase. This technique is applicable to many text mining and Natural Language Processing task and is extremely useful when our dataset is small.

Figure 2: Example of lowercasing

It’s important to note that though lowercasing is often a standard practice, there will be occasions where preserving the capitalization is important.


When we “stem” an inflection —In linguistic morphology, inflection is a process of word formation, in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, mood, animacy, and definiteness (Source: Wikipedia). For example, who becomes whose— word we are reducing it to it’s root form.

There are many different algorithms for stemming, however the most common and empircally effective stemmer for the English language is Porters Algorithm.

Figure 3: Stemming in Python with PorterStemmer

Stemming is often useful for dealing with sparsity and/or standardizing vocabulary.


Lemmatization usually refers to doing things properly with the use of a vocabulary and morphological analysis of words, normally aiming to remove inflectional endings only and to return the base or dictionary form of a word, which is known as the lemma (Source: Standford NLP Group).

Simply, lemmatization aims to remove inflections and map a word to it’s root form the proper way.

Figure 4: Lemmatization example with WordNetLemmatizer

Note: Do not make the mistake of using stemming and lemmatization interchangably — Lemmatization does morphological analysis of the words.


Stopwords are the common words in a language. These words are often regarded as words that do not add any meaning to the text (they aren’t important), hence why we remove them.

Figure 5: List of Stopwords in NLTK

Removing stopwords isn’t always an effective strategy. There are some cases where removing stopwords tend to be useful such as topic extraction, but in various classification task we may derive useful insights by allowing stopwords to remain.


In environments where text may have lots of noise, for example twitter and text messaging, normalizing text tends to be an important although overlooked step — By noisy environments, I mean places where being informal is common. When we normalize text we are transforming the text into a standard form (i.e. nvm becomes nevermind).

Figure 6: Normalization of text (Source: Kavita Ganesan All you need to know about text preprocessing for NLP and Machine Learning)

Text normalization, like stemming and lemmatization, has no standard method. It is purely dependant on the task at hand because we wouldn’t normalize our text messages in the same way we’d normalize our notes from a lecture (considering we take notes in non-standard ways).

Noise Removal

Noise can severly interfere with our text analysis. For example, tweets often contain all manner special characters that could harm our results as we do further preprocessing steps.

Figure 7: Stemming Performed without Noise Removal vs Stemming performed with Noise Removal — Original images from Kavita GanesanAll you need to know about text preprocessing for NLP and Machine Learning

There are various forms of noise to remove from our text;

  • Special Characters
  • Numbers
  • HTML
  • Domain Specific Keywords (e.g. RT meaning Retweet on Twitter)
  • Others (There are many more)

Which ones we remove is domain specific and what is determined as “noise” for the task that we have at hand.

Note: For More on Text Preprocessing, I highly recommend you read “All You Need To Know About Text Preprocessing for NLP and Machine Learning” by Kavita Ganesan.

Features Extraction

Before we can pass our text to a Logistic Regression Model, we must first represent our text as a vector. There are many ways for us to represent our text as a vector, but for our task (Sentiment analysis), we will look at two vector representations;

  • One Hot Encoding
  • Positive & Negative Frequency

One-Hot Encoding

For us to to this we must create a vocabulary. This can be done by creating a list of the unique words from every single tweet in our data.

Figure 8: Creating a Vocabulary we go through every word of every tweet and add words to the vocabulary, V, only if the word is not already in our vocabulary.

For us to extract the features, take a tweet and mark it with “1” to indicate the word from our vocabulary appears in the tweet and “0” if the word from our vocabulary does not appear in the tweet — see Figure 9.

Figure 9: Taking a tweet and displaying the feature vector of the tweet after one-hot encoding is applied to the tweet.

Since the vector for our tweet will be of length V (all the unique words in our dataset) and their will be only 5 features with a value 1 for the particular tweet we have chosen to display (“I hate going to school”), but many 0’s (length V — 5), we have what is called a sparse vector representation — simply means we have a large number of zeros hence we are taking up unwanted space to store the zeros.

If we train our Logistic Regression model on our sparse representation, our model would have to learn n + 1 (for the bias) parameters, where n is equal to the size of our vocabulary, V. As V becomes larger and larger, we would face two major problems;

  • Long time to train the model
  • Long inference time

Positive & Negative Frequencies

One technique to overcome the sparse representation problem is transform the vector to a positive and negative frequency count. More specifically, given a word, we want to track the number of times the word appeared in the positive class and given another word, track the number of times that word appears in the negative class. With these counts we can extract features and use them as input features to our Logisitc regression model.

In order to perform the positive and negative frequencies technique, we must first create a frequency dictionary — A frequency dictionary is simply a mapping of the counts of words given the target label. For example, we have our vocabulary and we count the number of times a word appears in positive tweets and we do the same for negative tweets.

Figure 10: Word Dictionary

To convert this into a feature, we simply take the sum of the positive frequencies and then we take the sum of the negative frequencies for each word in the tweet — See Figure 11.

Figure 11: For each tweet the input feature would be [bias, positive word frequency, negative word frequency].

So we have a visual example of what this looks like, we will take the example tweet “I am sad, I am not tall” (therefore Xm = “I am sad, I am not tall”). In Figure 5, we can see the frequencies of words in the whole dataset for the positive and negative class, so all we must do is take our tweet and sum the number of times each word appears — see Figure 12.

Figure 12: Extracting the features for the tweet “I am sad, I am not tall”

Therefore the input features for our Logisitic Regression model would be [1 (bias), 4 (PostiveWordCount), 10 (NegativeWordCount)].

Wrap Up

From this post, you now know various preprocessing methods and two ways we can extract features for us to pass into a Logisitc Regression model. A good task to practice what you’ve learnt today would be to try this on real data.

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