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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.

Waterman, B. (2002). The Eros of Parenthood: Explorations in Light and Dark by Noelle Oxenhandler New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001; 321 pp.. Fort Da, 8(2):99-109.

(2002). Fort Da, 8(2):99-109

The Eros of Parenthood: Explorations in Light and Dark by Noelle Oxenhandler New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001; 321 pp.

Reviewed by
Barbara Waterman, Ph.D.

Sitting down to write this review, I experience the converse of math anxiety, namely poetry anxiety. I believe it is no accident that in attempting a dialogue with this compassionate, wise, profound, and poetic book on parenting and its author, Noelle Oxenhandler, that I should fall into this pocket of panic about doing them both justice. Building upon her article in the February 19, 1996, issue of The New Yorker, “The Eros of Parenthood: Not Touching Children Can Also Be a Crime,” Oxenhandler attempts to reclaim the healthy aspects of the Eros of parenthood in the wake of a societal hypervigilance regarding child sexual abuse, which has led, in her opinion, to the proverbial “throwing out the baby with the bath water.”

In her analysis of the intense physicality and attraction between parent and child, Oxenhandler holds the tension between various sets of opposites — light and dark, connection and separateness, similarity and difference, asymmetry and mutuality, power and surrender, recognition and obliteration, abuse and caring — and manages to apply them creatively to the various conundrums parents experience with their children. Organized around different themes having to do with the parenting journey, the book contains stories, narratives, metaphors, allusions and critical reflections that comprise the gifts and agonies of parenting. Like a spiral going deeper and deeper, the unfolding dialectic between attuned parenting — metaphorically held by Goldilocks's discovery of the “just right” — and the potential for damage from intrusive or detached parenting reaches a crescendo over the course of this manuscript.

[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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