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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.

Wilce, G. (1994). On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored: psychoanalytic essays on the unexamined life by Adam Phillips. Published by Faber & Faber, London, 1993; 143 pages; £14.99.. Brit. J. Psychother., 10(3):450-451.

(1994). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 10(3):450-451

On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored: psychoanalytic essays on the unexamined life by Adam Phillips. Published by Faber & Faber, London, 1993; 143 pages; £14.99.

Review by:
Gillian Wilce

A phobia, like a psychoanalytic theory, is a story about where the wild things are.

The bored child is waiting, unconsciously, for an experience of anticipation.

[T]he only way to discover your projects is to notice - to make conscious - what you reckon are the obstacles.

So epigrammatic is the style of these extraordinary essays about ‘the most ordinary things in the world’ that the temptation (not wholly avoided here) is to review them simply by quoting and quoting.

Like the psychoanalysis which most interests Adam Phillips, his book is ‘prodigal in its use of analogy and promiscuous in its references’: on one page a child patient storing up worries to offer as gifts to his mother and on the next the etymology of the word ‘worry’; from Rousseau on being unable to buy the pears he desires to Freud on jokes to George Crabbe on the definition of an obstacle, all within a half-dozen paragraphs. Phillips' own desire in these essays is to ‘circulate’ the language of psychoanalysis ‘in unusual places with other languages’ (literature, for example, and the stories people tell about themselves) in order to illuminate and question both psychoanalysis itself and the most everyday of experiences: why tickling? what does composure mean? what is happening when we are bored? what is the kiss as a thing in itself?

And the experiences and the psychoanalysis, of course, question one another, often with unexpected outcomes. ‘One of the dramas that these essays try to sustain,’ he writes, ‘is the antagonism between the already narrated, examined life of developmental theory and the always potential life implied by the idea of the unconscious.

[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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