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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.

Paris, B.J. (1976). Herzog the Man: An Analytic View of a Literary Figure. Am. J. Psychoanal., 36(3):249-260.

(1976). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 36(3):249-260

Other Voices

Herzog the Man: An Analytic View of a Literary Figure

Bernard J. Paris, M.D.

The central achievement of Saul Bellow's Herzog is its detailed portrait of a complex human being. From this point of view, the book is a masterpiece, for Moses Elkanah Herzog is one of the great characters in literature. The chief thing needed for a proper appreciation of Bellow's creation is a psychological understanding of Herzog the man. The author himself says little or nothing about his character; he depicts him. Herzog says much about himself, but most of what he says is revelation rather than reliable analysis. Given his problems, Herzog cannot be expected to have more than fragmentary and fleeting insights into his own psychology. The novel's technique is such that we are induced to experience Herzog in his own terms. If we are to understand him, we need an objective standpoint from which to view him. The theories of Karen Horney are extraordinarily useful in helping us to understand Herzog the man. They are highly congruent with his character, and they permit us to comprehend in analytical terms what Bellow has enabled us to experience from within.

In Horneyan terms, Herzog is a basically compliant person who hopes to gain safety, love, worth, and glory by moving toward people, by being good, loving, sensitive, long-suffering, helpless, and full of high ideals. At the same time he has many expansive drives and longs to be masterful, a triumphant scholar, a man who knows the world for what it is and is able to vindicate himself and defeat his enemies. These two sides of Moses generate different values, different personality traits, different internal shoulds and external claims, and different conceptions of human nature and the human condition.

[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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