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Understanding Latent Dirichlet Allocation in Topic Modeling

Jay Purohit
April 25, 2024
min read

In the realm of topic modeling, text analysis is a crucial preprocessing step that involves identifying key terms and the quantification of their importance. It helps to extract meaningful insights and patterns from textual data. The pre-processed text can then be input into topic modeling algorithms to generate themes and topics from within the data.

Topic modeling can then be employed to extract deeper insights from the identified patterns. This involves the identification of recurring themes and topics so that enterprises can gain a clearer understanding of customer preferences, market trends, and emergent trends. It helps with prompt strategizing and data-driven decision-making.

Latent Dirichlet Allocation and Non-Negative Matrix Factorization are two key techniques in topic modeling. Let's delve deeper into how they work, and what their differences and applications are.

Understanding Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA)

Latent Dirichlet Allocation, or LDA for short, is a probabilistic model that is used in topic modeling in text-based data. It works by assuming that each document consists of a mixture of topics and that each topic is a probability distribution over words. LDA analyses word co-occurrence patterns to uncover the latent topics within a large text body.

LDA Topic Modelling Theory

Explained in simpler terms, LDA works to extract topics based on document-word relationships through probabilistically modeling the generation process of a document. By assuming that each document is a mixture of words and that each word is associated with a topic, it conducts iterative adjustments on the topic-word distributions. In this manner, the LDA algorithm can identify latent topics that best explain the document-word relationships.

The strengths of LDA lie in discovering latent topics in large text corpora. It can provide interpretable results for understanding the underlying text themes. It does, however, have some limitations:

  • It struggles with short documents.
  • The hyperparameters need to be carefully tuned for it to be effective.
  • It works with a fixed set of topics, which limits flexibility.

Delving into Non-Negative Matrix Factorization (NMF)

The Non-Negative Matrix Factorization, or NMF for short, is a topic modeling technique that works by decomposing a document-term matrix into two lower-dimension matrices that represent topics and term weights. The resulting matrices are easier to interpret and it works well for shorter documents.

Latent Dirichlet Allocation and NMF

Unlike LDA, the NMF technique imposes the non-negative constraint on all the elements in the matrix to ensure that the matrices representing topics and terms are non-negative. It helps with enhancing interpretability, as negative values don’t give meaningful interpretations. Although this technique does simplify the model, it may lead to loss of information.

Aspect LDA NMF
Interpretability Generates distributions of words per topic Decomposes documents into topics and term weights
Mathematical approach Bayesian probabilistic model Linear algebraic decomposition
Sparsity Generates sparse topic distributions Enforces sparsity on topics and terms
Application Commonly used in text analysis Widely used in image and audio processing

NMF makes up for the aspects that LDA lacks with its difference in approach. Below are some use cases where NMF outperforms LDA:

  • Image analyses are better with NMF as images can be decomposed into meaningful parts for analysis.
  • NMF is ideal for audio processing through extracting acoustic features from spectrograms, which helps with speech recognition.

Techniques and Algorithms in Topic Modeling

The use of several different techniques and algorithms in topic modeling helps enhance the overall efficiency of text analysis.

1. Probabilistic vs. Non-Probabilistic Approaches

Probabilistic approaches, like LDA, estimate the topic distributions based on probability theories. This provides uncertainty measures (because of the probabilities involved). On the other hand, non-probabilistic approaches (like NMF), focus on matrix decomposition, which does not involve probabilistic distributions. This provides deterministic results.

2. Other Notable Algorithms in Topic Modeling

Some other notable techniques and algorithms in topic modeling are:

Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA)

LSA is a natural language processing technique that analyses the relationship between a set of documents and the terms contained within them. It uses singular value decomposition to identify hidden topics. It represents the documents in a lower-dimension semantic space, which facilitates similarity comparisons and information retrieval.

Correlated Topic Model (CTM)

The correlated topic model is an extension of LDA that captures correlations between topics. However, unlike LDA, this model assumes that topics are generated from a multivariate Gaussian distribution, which permits the topics to exhibit a correlational structure. This technique is useful in capturing complex topic relationships in large-sized texts.

Applications of Topic Modeling Techniques

The topic modeling techniques discussed above are used across a variety of applications in the real world:

1. Document Clustering and Categorization

Topic modeling techniques such as LDA and NMF are frequently used in document clustering and organization tasks. This is because these techniques enable the grouping of similar documents by themes or topics. By identifying commonalities in topics, documents can be easily categorized, classified, and retrieved more efficiently.

2. Content Recommendation Systems

Topic modeling is applied to analyze the content of articles, videos, and other media to identify topics of user preference. This enables the recommendation systems to then recommend relevant content to the viewers. The most commonly used topic modeling techniques in content recommendation are LSA, LDA, and NMF.

3. Sentiment Analysis and Opinion Mining

Techniques like LDA and NMF are pivotal in sentiment analysis and opinion mining. They extract topics from data and associate each topic with a sentiment, helping brands understand their public perception, public opinion, trends, and more.

4. Identifying Themes in Large Text Corpora

Topic modeling techniques identify word co-occurrences and distributions in the documents, helping with the extraction of themes or latent topics in the text. It categorizes the documents into thematic clusters, without needing manual intervention for categorization.

Practical Implementation and Best Practices

To enhance the effectiveness of topic modeling techniques, there are some best practices you should follow:

1. Preprocessing Steps for Effective Topic Modeling

It is essential to go through the preprocessing steps in topic modeling, which involve text cleaning such as:

  • Removal of punctuation and stop words.
  • Tokenization to break text into individual words or phrases.
  • Stemming or lemmatization to reduce words to the base form.
  • Normalization to standardize the text format.

2. Tuning Hyperparameters and Model Evaluation

It is important to adjust hyperparameters like the number of topics or alpha and beta values to help optimize the performance of the model. Additionally, model evaluation assesses the quality of topic assignments through metrics like coherence or perplexity. It is essential to help select the best-performing model for the given dataset.

3. Dealing with Challenges and Noisy Data

Dealing with noisy data involves practices like removing stop words, stemming, and handling rare terms. Additionally, it is essential to filter out irrelevant documents and topics to mitigate the impact of noisy data on text analysis which could ultimately compromise the quality of clustering.

Case Studies and Examples

Real-world Scenarios Applying LDA and NMF

Some real-world scenarios where topic modeling is helpful are:

1. Market Basket Analysis

You can use LDA and NMF to discover associations between items in transactional data. It helps retailers understand purchasing patterns and optimize product placement.

2. Academic Research

Researchers can use LDA and NMF to explore vast collections of academic papers and discover trends and collaborations.

3. Legal Document Analysis

LDA and NMF are extensively used to classify and categorize large volumes of legal documents.

Extracting Insights from News Articles and Blogs

Topic modeling is frequently used to extract key insights from news articles and blogs. For example, through analysis of news articles and blogs with the tag “Climate Change,” it is possible, using NMF and LDA, to reveal prevalent themes like:

  • Environmental activism
  • Policy debates
  • Climate change events and incidents

Choosing the Right Technique: LDA or NMF?

There are several considerations you need to make when trying to decide between LDA and NMF:

1. Data characteristics

Consider the size and noise level in your data before choosing LDA or NMF. Bad-quality data is unsuitable for any technique.

2. Interpretability

If interpretability is crucial for your tasks, selecting LDA will help with generating topics as distributions over words, enhancing interpretability.

3. Scalability

If you are looking to scale your operations, NMF is the better choice because its computational efficiency allows for effortless scaling.

4. Sparsity

NMF produces sparse solutions, which is helpful when you need to identify meaningful patterns in data (like facial recognition).

5. Use cases

You can make selections based on specific tasks you need to perform. For example, choose LDA for sentiment analysis, and NMF for feature extraction or collaborative filtering.

Future Trends and Advancements in Topic Modeling

Innovations in topic modeling have helped significantly enhance the capacity and capability of these algorithms. Some of the emerging research and innovations in the field are:

1. Cross-modal topic modeling

This involves extending topic modeling algorithms to diverse data types like images, audio, text, etc. simultaneously.

2. Incremental and online learning

This method involves developing algorithms that are capable of adapting to evolving data streams in real time. This technique provides for continuous topic modeling.

Additionally, the integration of deep learning approaches with topic modeling allows for the incorporation of neural network architectures (like transformers) to achieve a more nuanced representation of the topics in a large text corpus.


Topic modeling is an essential machine learning technique that facilitates a range of tasks such as sentiment analysis, development of recommendation systems, and more. Several techniques like Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) and Non-Negative Matrix Factorization (NMF) are leveraged extensively for a variety of operations involving the extraction of insights from documents and texts.

The future holds immense possibilities for these machine learning models in the aspects of reinforcement learning using advanced AI, and applications in personalized content delivery.

If your business deals with large volumes of documents or texts, you can create your topic modeling apps using the robust AI platform by Markov.

Markov is a full-featured AI platform that provides enterprises with the necessary AI framework to build over. The no-code auto EDA toolset enables you to unlock deep insights from your data, helping identify data gaps, outliers, and patterns for informed decision-making. Know more at the Markov website.

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Jay Purohit

I build AI communities by the day and delve into psychology, history, mathematics and quantum physics by the night.

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