Feeding the Machine: A Guide to Text Data Annotation

Last Updated December 6, 2021

text data annotation

Glean high-quality information from text data annotation. Learn how it’s improving the customer experience.

There’s no shortage of sources to annotate for the purpose of teaching and training machine learning models.

E-commerce websites, customer surveys, emails, online reviews, social media accounts, chatbots, blog posts: these are all examples of content that we annotate to help these models acquire the ability to read, comprehend, and analyze text information.

In this article, we discuss exactly what we mean by text annotation and different types of tasks that fall under this term. We also look at how we annotate text data the purposes of machine learning.

What is text data annotation?

We tag and label text data to help further developments in natural language processing (NLP).

The goal of natural language processing (NLP) is to create programs that can both recognize comprehensible human speech and communicate it back to produce easy, natural interaction with artificial intelligence (AI).

As is the case with all ML projects, the process is powered by data. In this case, that data is naturally formed written text (like a product review) that needs to be transcribed and annotated. As a result, the ML algorithm can make associations between real and expressed meanings to interact more naturally.

Tagged items include keywords, phrases, and sentences; sentiments; intention; proper names.

Types of Text Data Annotation

Sentiment Annotation

Sentiment analysis (or opinion mining) determines whether the text data has a positive, negative, or neutral connotation.

This data comes from social media monitoring, brand monitoring, customer support analysis, customer feedback analysis, and direct market research.

Tweets directed at brands is an example of sentiment annotation. Your company compiles all your mentions and a team of annotators tags them based on the opinions or attitudes expressed.

This gives you a sense of what people are saying about your products and services. It also trains the algorithm to detect these sentiments automatically.

Intent Annotation

Here, annotators evaluate the need or desire behind a text, classifying it into several categories – request, command, or confirmation.

Think, for example, of chatbot conversations. Users jump on and type things like “cancel my account,” “I want a refund,” “upgrade my services,” or “my order hasn’t arrived yet.” The AI can’t automatically recognize exactly what you need, much less why you need it.

The machine learns what you’re asking, then reads your level of satisfaction with product or service in question. This helps your customer service team by directing these inquiries to the correct entry on an FAQ page or to direct a customer to the correct department.

Semantic Annotation

Add metadata to pinpoint people, places, organizations, products, or topics. It’s kind of like adding notes in the margin of a book.

The annotation is represented as a set of tags that enrich the document, or specific fragments of it, with identifiers of concepts.

This type of annotation further indexes, classifies and links the identified concepts in a graph database. The whole point is to get to understand not only the words, but the concepts as well.

For example, semantic annotation takes the sentence “Aristotle, the author of Politics, established the Lyceum” and identifies Aristotle as a person and “Politics” as a written work of political philosophy, and the Lyceum as a hall for public lectures.

Entity Annotation

Entity annotation teaches NLP models how to identify parts of speech, named entities and keyphrases within a text.

It’s easier to explain by naming the different types of entity annotation:

  • Named Entity Recognition (NER): The annotation of entities with proper names.
  • Keyphrase tagging: The location and labeling of keywords or phrases in text data
  • Part-of-speech (POS) tagging: The discernment and annotation of the functional elements of speech (i.e. adjectives, nouns, adverbs, verbs, etc.)

This task helps train the AI to recognize not just what is being said, but what’s being discussed.

Here’s an example of NER to help illustrate via Telus International:

text data annotation

As you can see, people/band names are in orange, countries are lighter orange, cities are yellow, and album titles are red.

Linguistic Annotation

The annotator identifies and flags grammatical or phonetic elements in the text or audio data. Types of linguistic annotation include:

  • Discourse annotation: Linking anaphors and cataphors to their antecedent or postcedent subjects. Ex: James broke the chair. He felt bad about it.
  • Phonetic annotation: Labeling of intonation, stress and natural pauses in speech
  • Semantic annotation: Annotation of word definitions

Linguistic annotation creates AI training datasets for a variety of solutions like chatbots, virtual assistants, search engines and machine translation.

How To Annotate Text Data

The human voice comes out in text as much as the spoken word, and in a world increasingly dominated by audio and video, text remains a valuable source of information to be mined.

Humans keep NLP systems up to date, accurate and inclusive.

Just like transcription, humans are vital in the annotation process, and are especially valuable in analyzing sentiment.

So, how do we do it? Trained annotators sift through the text and label according to your needs – it’s as simple as that.

Let’s use chatbots as an example. Start using one and it’s generally easy to tell how much of a human touch it possesses. For the AI to interact as naturally as possible, human annotators comb through chatbot text data and tag sentiment statements, intent directives, and so on.

So, if you type in “I have a problem with my streaming service and want a refund,” the chatbot will know exactly how to direct your inquiry, and even more so when you give your location, and it knows which region your service is located to serve you even better.

As to the how, there are large-scale text annotation and classification tools out there can help you achieve the deployment of your AI model quickly and more inexpensively. But again, those programs must first be taught to seek and tag what you need, and that begins with human annotation.

The best solution for your company depends on the complexity of the problem you’re trying to solve, as well as any cost and time restrictions.

If you want high-quality and comprehensive annotation, find a company that relies on the human eye and quality assurance nets to catch it all.

If you’re looking to keep costs down and get it done quickly, rely on an automated solution like AI annotation.

Feed Your AI with the Best Text Data Annotation

You can make your data meaningful and train your algorithm free from biases with our labeling and classification services for text, speech, image, and video data.

We adapt to your unique setup. Enjoy 100% flexibility when it comes to data and file structure.

We offer text annotation services in multiple languages to make localization as simple as possible.

Contact us today to learn more.

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