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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). Religion and Culture. A Critical Survey of Methods of Approach to Religious Phenomena: By Frederick Schleiter, (Columbia University Press, New York, 1919. Pp. 193 and Bibliography).. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 1:336-337.

(1920). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1:336-337

Religion and Culture. A Critical Survey of Methods of Approach to Religious Phenomena: By Frederick Schleiter, (Columbia University Press, New York, 1919. Pp. 193 and Bibliography).

Review by:
E. J.

As the title indicates, this volume is intended rather as a critical review than as an original contribution to this extensive subject, one covered by such terms as comparative religion, social psychology, anthropology and ethnology. The author is mainly concerned with the difficult question of methodology; he discusses the criteria we possess for the interpretation of anthropological data, the principles underlying the various modes of approach, and the most suitable starting points for investigation. These are very complex problems, which can only be discussed in an appropriate place and at considerable length, so that the reviewer will confine himself here to giving his impression of the book as a whole.

One feels that the author, doubtless in the endeavour to be objective, has refrained too much from constructive criticism of the methods he deals with, so that the book consists too much of a series of quotations of one theory and method after another, and fails to present the organic relations between them in an imaginative way. It serves the purpose excellently well of orienting students as to the main trends of work in these fields, and provides a useful and well-chosen bibliography. That his presentation of these, however, is not always to be depended on may be illustrated to the readers of this Journal familiar with the dynamic psychology of Freud, by the following passage, where they will be astonished to read that Freud "considers that they (i. e. the traditional principles of associationism—contiguity in space and time, cause and effect, and similarity) constitute a satisfactory explanation of the juxtaposition of psychic content involved in magic. The support of this position by Freud is nothing short of a curious anachronism". As it is mainly Freud's work which has made such a position an anachronism, the comment is distinctly entertaining.

[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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