What is Unsupervised sentiment analysis

Understanding Unsupervised Sentiment Analysis


Sentiment analysis refers to the use of natural language processing, computational linguistics, and text analytics to systematically identify, extract, quantify, and study affective states and subjective information from different sources of textual data. It helps in gauging people’s attitudes, opinions, and emotions on various issues, products, services, or events based on the tone, semantics, and syntax of the text. Sentiment analysis has widespread applications in business, marketing, politics, education, healthcare, social media, and many other fields where customer feedback, public opinion, or decision-making patterns need to be evaluated accurately and efficiently.

There are two main approaches to sentiment analysis: supervised and unsupervised.

  • Supervised Sentiment Analysis
  • Supervised sentiment analysis is a process of training a machine learning model on labeled data (training set) to classify a new or unknown text into positive, negative, or neutral sentiment categories. The labeled data consists of text samples that are manually annotated by human evaluators with sentiment polarity scores. The machine learning model learns to identify relevant features or patterns in the text that can help differentiate between positive, negative, and neutral sentiments. The model is then tested on an unseen data set (testing set) to evaluate its accuracy, precision, recall, and F1-score.

    Supervised sentiment analysis is useful when there is a sufficient amount of labeled data available, and the sentiment categories are well-defined and consistent across different domains and languages. However, the process of labeled data annotation can be time-consuming, costly, subjective, and prone to bias and errors. Moreover, the model's performance can degrade when there is a significant domain shift or linguistic variation between the training and testing data sets.

  • Unsupervised Sentiment Analysis
  • Unsupervised sentiment analysis is a process of discovering sentiment patterns or clusters in an unlabeled text corpus using clustering, topic modeling, or rule-based techniques. The unsupervised approach does not require prior knowledge of the sentiment categories or the manual annotation of text samples. Instead, it relies on the statistical properties, co-occurrences, and distributional similarity of words and phrases in the text to infer the sentiment orientations.

    The unsupervised sentiment analysis is useful when there is no or limited labeled data available, or the sentiment categories are ambiguous, context-dependent, or linguistically diverse. It can also help discover novel insights or sentiments that may not be captured by the predefined sentiment categories. However, the unsupervised approach can be less accurate and consistent than the supervised approach since it depends on the quality of the text representation and the clustering or modeling algorithms used.

Unsupervised Sentiment Analysis Techniques

The unsupervised sentiment analysis techniques can be broadly classified into three categories based on the type of input data:

  • Dictionary-based Sentiment Analysis:
  • Dictionary-based sentiment analysis is a method of assigning sentiment scores to words or phrases based on predefined sentiment lexicons or dictionaries. The sentiment lexicons are lists of words or phrases that have been manually annotated with sentiment polarities (positive, negative, or neutral) based on the human evaluators' judgments. The lexicons can be domain-specific, sentiment-specific, or language-specific, depending on the application requirements. The sentiment scores can be based on the frequency, intensity, or proximity of the sentiment words or phrases in the text.

    The dictionary-based sentiment analysis is simple, fast, and scalable, but it may suffer from the limitations of the sentiment lexicons, such as lexicon bias, ambiguity, or incompleteness. The method can also fail to capture sarcasm, irony, or figurative language, which are common in social media, humor, or creative writing.

  • Clustering-Based Sentiment Analysis:
  • Clustering-based sentiment analysis is a method of grouping similar text samples based on their semantic and syntactic properties. The clustering algorithms try to partition the text corpus into different clusters such that the text samples within the same cluster have similar sentiment orientations. The clustering can be based on various similarity measures, such as cosine similarity, Jaccard similarity, or edit distance. The clustering can also be hierarchical or non-hierarchical, depending on the desired level of granularity.

    The clustering-based sentiment analysis can help discover the sentiment themes or patterns that are prevalent in the text corpus. The method is unsupervised and does not require any manual labeling of the text samples. However, the clustering quality can be sensitive to the choice of similarity measure, clustering algorithm, and hyperparameters. Moreover, the method may fail to identify subtle or diverse sentiments that are not well-represented by the clusters.

  • Topic Modeling-Based Sentiment Analysis:
  • Topic modeling-based sentiment analysis is a method of identifying the latent topics or underlying themes in an unlabeled text corpus. The topic models, such as latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA), probabilistic latent semantic analysis (PLSA), or non-negative matrix factorization (NMF), can assign the text samples to different topics, where each topic is a mixture of words or phrases that co-occur in the text with certain probabilities. The topics can be interpreted as sentiment orientations as well, based on the sentiment polarity of the words or phrases.

    The topic modeling-based sentiment analysis can help discover the implicit relations between the topics and sentiments that may not be apparent in the raw text. The method can also handle the polysemous or ambiguous words and phrases, where the same word or phrase can have different meanings depending on the context. However, the topic modeling-based sentiment analysis can be computationally intensive, and the number of topics and their interpretation can be subjective and context-dependent.

Applications and Challenges of Unsupervised Sentiment Analysis

Unsupervised sentiment analysis has various applications in various domains and industries. Some of the applications are:

  • Brand monitoring and reputation management: Unsupervised sentiment analysis can help companies and brands to track and analyze their online mentions, reviews, and social media posts to evaluate the public perception of their products and services and identify areas of improvement.
  • Market research and customer feedback analysis: Unsupervised sentiment analysis can help marketers and researchers to gain insights into customer preferences, opinions, and sentiments on various products, services, or trends and generate actionable recommendations for business strategies.
  • Political sentiment analysis and election prediction: Unsupervised sentiment analysis can help political analysts and pollsters to analyze the public opinion and sentiment trends on different political candidates, parties, and issues and forecast the election outcomes based on the sentiment analysis results.
  • Online content moderation and hate speech detection: Unsupervised sentiment analysis can help social media platforms and online communities to detect and filter out the offensive, abusive, or hateful content based on the sentiment analysis results.

However, unsupervised sentiment analysis also faces several challenges that need to be addressed to improve its effectiveness:

  • Data quality and bias: Unsupervised sentiment analysis heavily relies on the quality and representation of the input data. The data sources may be biased, incomplete, or noisy, which can affect the accuracy and validity of the results. Moreover, the data may contain outliers, anomalies, or irrelevant text that can introduce noise and reduce the clustering or modeling performance.
  • Sentiment ambiguity and diversity: Unsupervised sentiment analysis needs to deal with the ambiguity and diversity of sentiments and emotions expressed in the text. The same words or phrases may have different sentiment orientations depending on the context, tone, and cultural background. Moreover, the text may contain multiple sentiments that can coexist or change over time.
  • Model complexity and scalability: Unsupervised sentiment analysis models can be computationally intensive and require high-performance hardware and software resources. Moreover, the models need to be scalable and robust to handle large and heterogeneous data sets.
  • Interpretability and explainability: Unsupervised sentiment analysis models need to be interpretable and explainable to the end-users. The models should provide meaningful and actionable insights into the sentiment trends and patterns in the text corpus. Moreover, the models should be transparent and accountable regarding the data sources, processing steps, and evaluation metrics.


Unsupervised sentiment analysis is a powerful tool for discovering and analyzing sentiment trends and patterns in an unlabeled text corpus. The method has various applications in business, marketing, politics, and social media, where customer feedback, public opinion, or decision-making patterns need to be evaluated accurately and efficiently. However, the method also faces several challenges regarding data quality and bias, sentiment ambiguity and diversity, model complexity and scalability, and interpretability and explainability. To overcome these challenges, researchers and practitioners need to develop and apply advanced techniques and frameworks that can address the limitations and scale up the performance and impact of unsupervised sentiment analysis.