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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.

Gordon, P. (2002). Fritz Fraenckel: A Revolutionary Psychologist. Free Associations, 9(2):211-226.

(2002). Free Associations, 9(2):211-226

Fritz Fraenckel: A Revolutionary Psychologist

Paul Gordon

Fritz Fraenckel was a German socialist psychiatrist who lived through some of the most turbulent years of the 20th century. He was closely involved with the revolutionary Spartacists in the years after the First World War, he took part in the Spanish Civil War and he died in exile in Mexico in 1943.

We publish this short feature as a tribute to a man who should be rescued from obscurity and who ought to take his place alongside better-known figures in the history of socially committed psychology.

Although his friend, the revolutionary activist and writer, Victor Serge, refers to him as a psychoanalyst — as does Bill Marshall in his fine book Victor Serge. The Uses of Dissent (Berg, 1992) — Fraenckel was not formally a psychoanalyst. He had no formal psychoanalytic training and was not a member of the German psychoanalytic organization. He was nevertheless clearly influenced by psychoanalysis, as the tributes published here show, while his paper on the psychology of National Socialism, written with Herbert Lennhoff and published here for the first time in English, is clear evidence of an attempt to understand Nazism from a perspective informed by psychoanalysis. (While perhaps lacking theoretical sophistication from the standpoint of nearly 60 years later, this paper nevertheless seeks to cast light on what was at the time a relatively neglected aspect of this destructive phenomenon.)

I am particularly grateful to John Manson for his inspiration and for his considerable help in putting together this feature and to Eileen Holly and Ursula Ott for their translation of the article by Fraenckel and Lennhoff. I should be interested to hear from any readers with more information about this remarkable man.

[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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