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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.

Shamdasani, S. (1993). Commentaries on ‘The mirror and the hammer’. Free Associations, 3(4):604-607.

(1993). Free Associations, 3(4):604-607

Commentaries on ‘The mirror and the hammer’

Sonu Shamdasani

Having debated with Andrew Samuels his project for the political engagement of depth psychology under its various tricksterish changes of shapes, I will in the following remarks simply focus on what seem to be certain difficulties in its current articulation. One can applaud Samuels' reiteration of the urgency and the necessity for a psychological engagement with politics; and the way in which his attempt to formulate possible tactics, through shifting the language away from the narrow sectarianism of various analytic schools, sets the stage for the debate (given the current state of their interpolitical relations, this is a significant enough achievement in itself). The critical sections which deal with the pitfalls of various approaches are salutory; in particular, the critique of ‘the object relations consensus’ and its applications to politics is both timely and important. However, the problematics at issue in having ‘the baby’ as the paradigm of psychological intelligibility are not resolved through replacing the baby with a set of alternative figurae — in this case, drawn from myth — but require a questioning of the politics of paradigmicity itself. It is here, it seems to me, that the main difficulty of the paper lies, and this concerns what Samuels terms the resacralization of culture, and the way in which he inscribes the psychology of the political within this global paradigm.


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