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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.

Elliott, A. (2000). Resistances of Psychoanalysis, Jacques Derrida. Stanford University Press, 1998, $26.95.. Free Associations, 7(4):127-129.

(2000). Free Associations, 7(4):127-129

Resistances of Psychoanalysis, Jacques Derrida. Stanford University Press, 1998, $26.95.

Review by:
Anthony Elliott

An Engrossing Critique of psychoanalysis, a confessional memoir, a tale of intellectual influences, a history of the great twentieth-century love affair with Freudian thought — such is Resistances of Psychoanalysis, a book that is sure to raise the level of debate over the politics of deconstruction several notches. Jacques Derrida, the guru of French post-structuralist theory, traces in the three essays which comprise this book a lineage from Freud to Jacques Lacan to Michel Foucault. Written in a provocative and playful prose, Derrida seeks to uncover the various ambiguities and instabilities of psychoanalysis as a method of interpretation.

What comes through very clearly in Derrida's passionate book is the inherently engaged and sensitive nature of deconstructive thought. For Derrida seeks to widen once again — developing upon arguments in his previous books such as Of Grammatology, Dissemination and The Post Card — the horizons of psychoanalysis to incorporate the problem of writing in relation to society and history. One of the major virtues of the book is its deft articulation of the theoretical arguments surrounding the scientific standing and therapeutic value of psychoanalysis. Derrida does this less through an interrogation of the recent culture wars than by focusing on conceptual revisions of Freud. Not so much resistances to psychoanalysis then, but rather a history of the resistances of psychoanalysis.

Returning to classical psychoanalytic theory, Derrida finds “resistance” at the heart of Freud's ideas, including the unconscious, repression and the Oedipus complex.

[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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