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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.

Meissner, W.W. (1996). The Genealogy Of Psychoanalysis. By Michel Henry. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 1993, xxviii + 353 pp., $39.50.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 44:599-602.

(1996). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 44:599-602

The Genealogy Of Psychoanalysis. By Michel Henry. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press, 1993, xxviii + 353 pp., $39.50.

Review by:
W. W. Meissner

In the course of the last few years, we have seen a significant deepening and enrichment of the exploration of the philosophical roots of psychoanalysis. The approach of philosophers to psychoanalysis has not been enlightening or constructive: the positivist onslaught launched by Ernest Nagel and Karl Popper, and extended in the trenchant criticisms of Adolf Grünbaum (1984, 1993), has taken the approach of trying to tell analysis what it should be if it insists on laying claim to scientific validity. The effort to fit psychoanalysis onto the procrustean bed of positivist critical theory has not helped to shed much light on the epistemological nature or validity of psychoanalytic formulations or of psychoanalytic clinical method itself.

The philosophical mind has fortunately found other avenues of approach to the understanding of the psychoanalytic phenomenon. A second channel of inquiry set out to explore the meaning of psychoanalysis as a method of knowing and as a distinctive approach to the human condition that was worthy of philosophical analysis. Rather than reducing psychoanalytic phenomena to preconceived conditions of acceptability, these philosophers made every effort to respect the rich complexity of the subject and to bring the resources of philosophical understanding to make sense of and provide intellectual standing to the analytic enterprise. The first steps in this process were provided by Paul Ricoeur (1970) in his seminal work on Freud and Philosophy. But even Ricoeur's effort addressed psychoanalysis through a hermeneutical perspective that had the effect of reducing the psychoanalytic method to its language and the symbolic dimension of meanings and their derivations—another truncated version of analysis.

The subsequent quarter century has seen a continuing flow of exceptional and thoughtful treatises dealing with the philosophical roots of psychoanalysis.

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