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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.

Hanly, M.F. (1998). Psychoanalysis and Development: Representations and Narratives. Edited by M. Ammaniti and D. Stern. New York: New York University Press, 1994, 212 pp., $55.00.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(1):293-297.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(1):293-297


Psychoanalysis and Development: Representations and Narratives. Edited by M. Ammaniti and D. Stern. New York: New York University Press, 1994, 212 pp., $55.00.

Review by:
Margaret Ann Fitzpatrick Hanly

Some intense crosscurrents of contemporary thought on the nature of psychoanalytic knowledge (hermeneutic or scientific), and on the “representability” of primitive affects and the consequent data for psychoanalytic research, are presented in this volume of essays. The editors' bias is clearly on the hermeneutic side of the controversy on narrative. Ending their introductory collage of views on representation, narrative, and research, with quotations from Bruner, Feldman, Nelson, and Calvino, the editors endorse a “perspectivistic,” “relativistic,” “anthropomorphic” view of reality. The problem with this editorial leaning is that no serious argument is presented in the introduction to support or question it. Indeed, Ammaniti's account of his own research exists squarely in a scientific realist perspective. And several essays that use the language of “narrative” do so superficially; they in fact fall, implicitly at least, within the scientific realist framework, their authors having not actually engaged any of the defining issues in the debates. Only in the final two essays of the collection, by Genovese and Mancia, are the debates seriously taken up, with the result that the scientific realist perspective is given a strong confirmation.

The contending sides in both debates, on narrative and on representability, are most clearly articulated by Genovese (“The Problem of Representability”). He notes that, with respect to the problem of representation, the debate “has a clinical-developmental nature”: the concern here is on “the relationship between affects, representations, and language, as it is organized in the different stages of life” (p. 175). Genovese's position is that the infant in the first months of life “lacks the sense of continuity of self” and thus also lacks “the comparative and discriminative function that represents a presupposition of representability” (p. 182).

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