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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.

AbuHamda, M. (2010). Mornings in Jenin By Susan Abulhawa New York: Bloomsbury, 2010.. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 7(3):243-245.

(2010). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 7(3):243-245

Mornings in Jenin By Susan Abulhawa New York: Bloomsbury, 2010.

Review by:
Mona AbuHamda, Ph.D.

In her first novel, Mornings in Jenin, Susan Abulhawa undertakes the daunting task of presenting a historical account of the Israeli occupation of Palestine from a refugee camp survivor's perspective. Abulhawa's aim is to shed light on the Palestinian holocaust, the soul murder of generations, and the cruel indifference of a hypocritical world that promotes democracy, human rights, justice, freedom; yet selectively condones the atrocities and the violations that humans commit against humanity. She accomplishes this by telling the story of Amal (Amy) Abulheja, a Palestinian American who was born a refugee in Jenin. Abulhawa unfolds the lives of four generations of the Abulheja family beginning with Amal's grandparents, a Palestinian couple from Ein Hod and ending with Amal's daughter, Sara, an American Palestinian from Philadelphia.

This book is an attempt to give a voice to the voiceless, to broadcast the headlines that are never published, and to educate a world that willingly chooses ignorance as a defense against failure, disinterest and even prejudice. It is an effort to humanize a people who, for decades, have been humiliated and vilified and to preserve the memory of a besieged nation that continues to gasp for air, for life.

Mornings in Jenin is a sensuous and poetic narrative. The author's exquisite descriptive capacity gives life to each character and a vivid sense of the places where the story is set. Although her providing the translation of the proverbs, phrases and prayers captures the essence of the Arabic culture and tradition, Abulhawa's insistence on the use of the Arabic words themselves exemplifies, especially to a native speaker, the lyrical and passionate nature of this language and people of the region. Abulhawa evokes the senses with her depiction of the colors, clothes, the aroma of trees and flowers, the glowing images of Arab features, the eroticism, the skill and pride with which food is prepared and offered, the imperative virtue of generosity that every Arab must possess. She emphasizes the oneness of a people and a land bonded together by olives, figs and citrus fruits. Her description of such actual and psychosocial landscape can only be appreciated by a direct encounter with it. Here are a few examples for the reader to savor.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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