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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.

Eissler, K.R. (1997). Preliminary Remarks On Emma Eckstein's Case History. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:1303-1305.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:1303-1305

Preliminary Remarks On Emma Eckstein's Case History

K. R. Eissler

In a book I am preparing, Freud's Love Affair with the Seduction Theory, a chapter is devoted to Emma Eckstein. In the following I wish to present preliminary corrections of errors in the literature that surround her case history and treatment.

As is well known, Emma Eckstein was a patient of Freud's. Her symptomatology has not been precisely identified, but it is not unreasonable to assume that dysmenorrhea was one of her reasons for being in treatment. Freud was criticized for having agreed in 1895 with his friend Fliess, who, believing in a pathophysiological connection between the nose and the female genitalia, suggested as treatment the removal of the frontal third of the left middle turbinate bone, a small protuberance in the nasal septum. This sounds like an irrational decision, but it should be noted that dysmenorrhea is an extremely painful disorder that completely incapacitates the patient for days. Physicians at that time were unable to do anything but prescribe painkillers. Inasmuch as ovariectomy as an intended cure for hysteria was performed with some frequency in late-nineteenth-century Vienna, the removal of a little bone must have appeared to Freud as innocuous, particularly since he was assured that the surgical intervention was harmless and easily performed.

Indeed, the operation is harmless, but Fliess made a mistake that could not be have been anticipated: he failed to remove a half-meter long piece of iodoform gauze from the nasal cavity. When this foreign body was taken out thirteen days later, a profuse hemorrhage resulted. It was instantly stopped and a tampon inserted. The latter was removed in due course without ill effect, and no injury was observed in the nasal cavity. The patient appeared cured, but seemingly spontaneous profuse hemorrhages occurred thereafter.

[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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