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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.

J., E. (1920). Dreams and Primitive Culture: By W. H. R. Rivers, M.D., F.R.S., (Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1918. Pp. 26. 1s.).. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 1:333-334.

(1920). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1:333-334

Dreams and Primitive Culture: By W. H. R. Rivers, M.D., F.R.S., (Longmans, Green & Co., London, 1918. Pp. 26. 1s.).

Review by:
E. J.

This is a lecture delivered at the John Rylands Library, Manchester, in April 1918. The object of the lecturer is to point out that the resemblances which Abraham and others have remarked on between dreams and myths are also to be observed between dreams and primitive culture, i. e. that the principles of psycho-analysis have a wide validity in this field. He gives first an account of Freud's theory of dreams, which he seems to accept as true with certain reservations, notably as regards the formulation of the censorship concept. He then takes it point by point, distortion, symbolism, dramatization, displacement, condensation, secondary elaboration, wish-fulfilment, and so on, and illustrates all these processes by parallels drawn from his own experience in Melanesia. He meets the possible objection that such parallels can be found if only one searches widely enough, first by confining his examples to one single island two miles wide, and then by laying stress on the closeness of the parallels cited.

As this is a book distinctly to be read by psycho-analysts, only one or two features will be noticed here. Dr. Rivers considers that sensorial imagery is much more vivid in savage peoples than in civilised, even going so far as to speak of their "almost exclusive interest in the concrete", and suggests that the prominence of this feature in the primitive mind accounts for the strikingly dramatic nature of most of their rites and ceremonies, as it does in the case of dreams.

[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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