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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.

Hinshelwood, R.D. (1986). A ‘dual materialism’. Free Associations, 1(4):36-50.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(4):36-50

A ‘dual materialism’

R. D. Hinshelwood

In his daily practice a psychoanalyst is engaged in reducing personal events to psychological explanations. This activity may be highly condemned by socialists, who point to the very evident effects on people of outside influences in the form of reified social forces.

At its most banal, the problem is a fight between psychology and economics for primacy as the correct reductive explanation. This is an unfortunate fragmentation of knowledge arising from the real difficulties in articulating these disciplines.

I had occasion to report a simple correspondence that appears between observations reported by Marx in his youth, and by Melanie Klein, a post-Freudian, almost a century later (Hinshelwood, 1983; 1985). It is most unlikely that Klein was influenced by Marx's original descriptions, which were hardly known at the time she was first making her observations in the 1930s (Marx's 1844 Manuscripts were not published until 1932 and then met with a distinctly cool reception in the frosty Stalinist climate).

Marx's descriptions of the alienation of the industrial worker are strikingly similar to Klein's observations of projective identification in young children in the playroom.

The essential features of projective identification I shall take to be: splitting and projection, depletion and depersonalization, imprisonment, unconscious phantasy, sensuous activity, and reciprocity and control. I shall compare projective identification and alienation in the words of Klein (and followers) and from the early writings of Marx.

i)   Splitting

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