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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.

Zinkin, L. (1989). The Grail Quest and the analytic setting. Free Associations, 1R(17):39-57.

(1989). Free Associations, 1R(17):39-57

The Grail Quest and the analytic setting

Louis Zinkin

The clinical discipline of psychoanalysis has given rise to a theory which can be applied to other fields of study, such as a piece of literature, and this usually takes the form of psychoanalytic interpretation. The stories, myths and legends of the Grail can be interpreted in this way, but it is also illuminating to reverse this procedure. Analogies work both ways, and the stories can be ‘applied’ and used as a way of understanding what can be called ‘the analytic situation’. Now the psychoanalytic situation, which is usually thought of as the clinical situation in which analyst and analysand are placed, is not easily defined, and it is the very difficulty of defining it with any clarity which leads me to turn to literature, using a very different language, one which knows nothing of psychoanalysis but can nevertheless illuminate it.

In the Grail stories we shall see that questioning is more important than answering. The Grail hero, to succeed in his quest, does not have to answer a question — as, for example, Oedipus has to answer the riddle of the Sphinx — but has instead to ask one. The difficulty in defining the analytic situation does not appear until we start asking questions about it.


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