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Tip: Understanding Rank

PEP-Web Tip of the Day

When you do a search, you can sort the results bibliographically alphabetical or by “rank”. What is Rank?

Rank refers to the search engine’s “best guess” as to the relevance of the result to the search you specified. The exact method of ranking used varies a bit depending on the search. In its most basic level, when you specify a single search term, rank looks at the density of the matches for the word in the document, and how close to the beginning of the document they appear as a measure of importance to the paper’s topic. The documents with the most matches and where the term is deemed to have the most importance, have the highest “relevance” and are ranked first (presented first).

When you specify more than one term to appear anywhere in the article, the method is similar, but the search engine looks at how many of those terms appear, and how close together they appear, how close to the beginning of the document, and can even take into account the relative rarity of the search terms and their density in the retrieved file, where infrequent terms count more heavily than common terms.

To see a simple example of this, search for the words (not the phrase, so no quotes):

unconscious communications

Look at the density of matches in each document on the first page of the hits. Then go to the last page of matched documents, and observe the density of matches within the documents.

A more complex search illustrates this nicely with a single page and only 15 matches:

counter*tr* w/25 “liv* out” w/25 enact*

There are a lot of word forms and variants of the words (due to the * wildcards) above that can match, but the proximity (w/25) clause limits the potential for matching. What’s interesting here though is how easily you can see the match density decrease as you view down the short list.

The end result of selecting order by rank is that the search engine’s best “guess” as to which articles are more relevant appear higher on the list than less relevant articles.

For the complete list of tips, see PEP-Web Tips on the PEP-Web support page.

Spitz, E.H. (1989). Trauma and Mastery in Life and Art: By Gilbert J. Rose. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1987, 239 pp., $27.50.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 37:839-841.

(1989). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 37:839-841

Trauma and Mastery in Life and Art: By Gilbert J. Rose. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1987, 239 pp., $27.50.

Review by:
Ellen Handler Spitz, Ph.D.

Pondering Gilbert J. Rose's evocative book, I gaze through frosty window panes at thickly swirling snowflakes that slowly blanket the world, and Dostoevsky's Russia seems close enough to touch. The experience accords well with the first comment I would like to make about this book—a word of appreciation to its author for the genuine pleasure he affords his reader in conjuring up so vividly the scenes of which he writes—including, among others, those drawn from the oeuvre of the great Russian novelist as well as from his own clinical practice of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. His power of reanimation, his raconteurship, is a genuine gift and contributes in no small way to the quality of the book under review. In instances where authors are endowed with it, such a gift enhances the pages both of literary and art criticism and of clinical case histories. Indeed, though it is rarely stated in quite these terms, a flair for breathing new life into stories is probably an asset (albeit with accompanying dangers) in clinical work as well, since the experience of empathic listening is often conveyed by means of a heightened capacity to reflect back one's understanding in striking imagery.

Having begun here, however, it is necessary to say that the book under review is not principally one of literary criticism, nor is it chiefly concerned with Dostoevsky. Rather, its stated agenda is considerably more global in scope. The author himself describes it as an effort to build upon his earlier work, The Power of Form, by considering the general relations both between art and psychopathology and between creative or esthetic experience and the process of psychoanalytic treatment. To undertake this ambitious task, he has selected "trauma" and "mastery" as organizing notions that, in his view, cut across the domains he seeks to compare and contrast. Such an agenda implies a theoretical text.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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