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How Computer Analysis ­ncovered J. K. Rowling's Secret Novel

By Popular Science

July 22, 2013

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Duquesne University professor Patrick Juola used computer analysis to determine that Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling wrote "The Cuckoo's Calling."

The novel, purportedly written by first-time author Robert Gailbraith, was the subject of speculation over its authorship. After the computer analysis was presented to Rowling, she admitted to writing the novel.

To conduct his analysis, Juola compared digital copies of "The Cuckoo's Calling" with other Rowling novels, as well as with works written by three different authors. The analysis looked for four writing habits that are considered strong indicators of authorship to determine which author matched most closely. The program analyzed each book's distribution of word lengths, 100 most common words, pairs of words frequently used together, and groups of four characters called four-grams that include letters, spaces, and punctuation.

Rowling came up most frequently in the tests as the likely author, although the analysis is not considered conclusive.

This type of analysis could provide significant evidence of authorship of historical texts, contested court documents, and other written works.

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