Text mining is a popular topic for exploring what text you have in documents etc. Text mining and NLP can help you discover different patterns in the text like uncovering certain words or phases which are commonly used, to identifying certain patterns and linkages between different texts/documents. Combining this work on Text mining you can use Word Clouds, time-series analysis, etc to discover other aspects and patterns in the text. Check out my previous blog posts (post 1, post 2) on performing Text Mining on documents (manifestos from some of the political parties from the last two national government elections in Ireland). These two posts gives you a simple indication of what is possible.
We can build upon these Text Mining examples to include other machine learning algorithms like those for Classification. With Classification we want to predict or label a record or document to have a particular value. With Classification this could involve labeling a document as being positive or negative (movie or book reviews), or determining if a document is for a particular domain such as Technology, Sports, Entertainment, etc
Click through for a walkthrough of this process.