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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.

Moss, D. (1997). Disorienting Sexuality: A Commentary. Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(2):185-190.

(1997). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(2):185-190

Disorienting Sexuality: A Commentary Related Papers

Donald Moss, M.D.

This collection of essays focuses on sexual politics: the power dynamics through which sexuality has been, is, and might be ordered; and the place of psychoanalysis within those dynamics.

The collection is the product of an emerging populist impulse within the profession. Like any populist impulse, this one is fueled by a potent mixture of remembered oppression and envisioned freedom. The essays, mostly written in first person voice, and all in what might be called a first person mood, partake of the dignity and indignation common to populism, in collectively asserting that this oppression can no longer be tolerated and that the pursuit of freedom can no longer be delayed.

For the authors here, whose focus is sexual oppression, the paradigmatic oppressive icon is normative heterosexuality. Called into question by this collection is the entire matrix of sentiment and idea—the ongoing flux of popular assumption and arcane theory—by which the sexual field has been organized around that icon.

There is nothing disinterested about this collective inquiry. In fact, epistemological disinterest in this context would likely seem methodologically complicit with existing oppressive norms. The general understanding informing the collection is that, from Freud on, the profession's proximity to entrenched power has led to an attenuation of the theory's liberatory conceptual and clinical potential. The galvanizing focus is on the egregious use of the institution and the theory of psychoanalysis in the pathologization, inarginalization, and disempowerment of gay and lesbian people.

[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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