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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.

Flynn, S. (2008). The Wisdom of a Bad Choice: The Vicissitudes of Sexual Desire. Fort Da, 14(2):36-54.

(2008). Fort Da, 14(2):36-54

The Wisdom of a Bad Choice: The Vicissitudes of Sexual Desire

Susan Flynn, Ph.D.

The word “vicissitudes” — a difficulty that is likely to occur, especially one that is inherent in the situation — seems especially apt for my focus on the sexual development of a young girl following a sexual trauma with her father. There are many problems a young girl is left with “inherent in the situation” of sexual trauma; sexual desire will be my focus.

My assumption is that following incest, a young girl will continue to evolve as a sexual person, with an altered line of sexual development. Certain questions follow this assumption: What can we understand about the alteration of her sexual desire? How do psychoanalytic interventions facilitate development of sexual desire? Since our sexual development begins in infancy and continues throughout life, does psychoanalytic treatment offer a unique opportunity to repair the sexual desire of the incest survivor? I will present my treatment of Alissa to consider these questions.

As my patient, Alissa, neared the end of her treatment, the question of the importance of forgiveness as a developmental accomplishment — and not an act of will — entered our work and was part of the resolution of the transference. In retrospect, it seemed only possible in the full acceptance of what happened to her, and how she had repeated the trauma in different ways, that forgiveness of herself and her father occurred. In the transference, what she had done to me, and I to her, was also forgiven. As Freud (1914/1959) said, “To understand all is to forgive all.”

I consider Alissa's a clinical tale of healing, both inside and outside the analysis. One dynamic I would like to note is the accuracy of her object choices to recall, sometimes to recreate, and to rework her trauma. We both came to have a deeper trust of the contribution from her unconscious mind to her choices, even as they initially seemed, at least to me, to be “bad choices.” I would consider Alissa's object choices as a particular trajectory of the healing of her sexual desire. Incest is an object-related trauma; Alissa had to wind her way back to a more integrated sexual desire along the path of relationships. There were certainly bumps along that road, both in and out of the treatment.


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