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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.

Stein, R. (1998). Two Principles of Functioning of the Affects. Am. J. Psychoanal., 58(2):211-230.

(1998). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 58(2):211-230

Two Principles of Functioning of the Affects

Ruth Stein, Ph.D.

Let me describe a situation that is quite familiar. A patient says something, stops, withdraws into himself, turns inwardly, concentrating on what he feels, and then says, “No, what I've said is not exact; it isn't quite like this. I can't say yet what I feel, but I feel now it's different from what I've just said.” In these moments it is clear that the patient is involved with something that amounts to more than thoughts or words, something as yet unarticulated, that he is nevertheless comparing his feelings against, in order to conclude—as he does—that a statement that seemed right and true is, after all, not right. The statement might still be correct and describe some happening, but the patient already has something else in mind, something that is more directly felt but cannot yet be said. Even though he still does not know what it is, this “something” is nevertheless sufficiently defined to signal with certainty that it is not the thing he had said it was. This experience is analogous to the forgetting of someone's name, a forgetting where we nevertheless still retain the “feel of” the name. We know which name it is not, and we can also sense the inherent though as yet inexpressible specificity of the precise name we are looking for. This specificity that we search for maddeningly is within the “feel” of the name we have. If we touch the “feel” of the name again and again, contacting it with our attention, then it may suddenly “open up” and the actual name will appear, accompanied by the sense of one's having found the right thing. There is no doubt now that this is the name we had forgotten, and there is a clear continuity between the earlier “feel” and the present name. As each step modifies and corrects the preceding step in a series of successive approximations, the content changes throughout this articulation. By consulting the affect, the “feel” one thereby gets between each step and the next, justifies, challenges, or modifies the affect and changes its direction in a way that could not have been foreseen.

[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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