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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.

Jones, E. (1920). A Linguistic Factor in English Characterology. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 1:256-261.

(1920). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1:256-261

A Linguistic Factor in English Characterology

Ernest Jones

The definition of national character traits is notoriously treacherous ground, but in all attempts to describe those most typical or general among English people one is always mentioned with such unvarying emphasis that it is hard to resist the conclusion that it must relate, however roughly, to some group of observable phenomena. I refer to the striking insistence of the English on propriety, which is commented on not only by practically all foreign observers, but also by Americans and our fellow-subjects from overseas, not to speak of the "Keltic fringe" in our own islands. That it degenerates into prudishness here more often than in any other country, at least in the Old World, will also, I think, be widely admitted. The trait is probably to be correlated in some degree with the proneness to reserve, the absence of social gifts, the dislike of betraying emotion of any kind, and the horror of self-display, vaunting, braggadocio, gasconade, rodomontade — one sees that we have to use foreign terms to indicate attitudes so foreign to us — which also belong to the judgments passed on the English by foreigners. Psychologically the group in question might perhaps be described in McDougall's language as a deficiency in the self-regarding instinct. Psycho-analysts would call attention to the secondary nature of the phenomena as indicating the existence of what is called a reaction-formation, and indeed that something is being actively controlled or avoided is fairly evident; they would probably ascribe the traits to a reaction against more than one complex, repressed exhibitionism being perhaps the most prominent.

[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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