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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.

Friedman, R.C. (1997). Response to Ken Corbett's: “Homosexual Boyhood Notes on Girlyboys” (Vol. 1, No. 4, 1996). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(4):487-494.

(1997). Gender and Psychoanalysis, 2(4):487-494

Response to Ken Corbett's: “Homosexual Boyhood Notes on Girlyboys” (Vol. 1, No. 4, 1996) Related Papers

Richard C. Friedman, M.D.

Ken Corbett's article “Homosexual Boyhood: Notes on Girlyboys” is replete with bias, distortion, and inaccuracy. It calls for detailed response in light of widespread interest in psychoanalytic theories of gender identity/role and sexual orientation. It is particularly important for clinicians and clinical theorists to maintain high standards of scholarship since their writings may influence clinical practice.

Early in the article Dr. Corbett states:

In recognition of the preliminary nature of my efforts to conceive homosexual boyhood, I have organized the latter half of this paper as notes on girlyboys. It is my hope that presenting this material in the form of notes will afford me greater freedom, while appropriately conveying the preliminary nature of my efforts. The note form—unfettered by an essay's demand for sequence and reason—seems more in keeping with the subjectivity I am attempting to capture. It is witless to be completely solemn about girlyboys, for solemnity runs counter to the extravagance and liberty that imbue girlyboy play [pp. 433-434].

This startling revelation is inconsistent with Dr. Corbett's obvious desire to be taken seriously as a critic of gender theory.

[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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