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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.

Stoddart, W.H. (1921). Abnormal Psychology: By Isador H. Coriat, M.D. (Moffat, Yard and Co. 1921. Price $ 400.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 2:232-233.

(1921). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 2:232-233

Abnormal Psychology: By Isador H. Coriat, M.D. (Moffat, Yard and Co. 1921. Price $ 400.)

Review by:
W. H.B. Stoddart

It is nowhere stated what edition we are reading, but we gather from the fact that the only preface is that to the second edition, written in 1913, that this is merely a reprint of the 1913 edition; although it says on the outside paper cover that the volume has been entirely revised. With regard to the scientific value of the work, criticism is somewhat disarmed by a hint in the introduction and elsewhere that it is intended for the general reader only.

The subject matter is divided into two parts. Part I is entitled 'The Exploration of the Subconscious' and Part II—'The Diseases of the Subconscious'; so we are at once set a-wondering what Dr. Coriat means by the 'Subconscious'. In his opening sentence he tells us that it is sometimes called the 'unconscious'. He immediately fogs this clear pronouncement by telling us that it means an inability to reproduce the images of past experience and that the psychologist regards the subconscious as an independent consciousness; so the poor general reader does not obtain a particularly clear initial conception of the 'subconscious'. These notions are elaborated in a loosely written chapter: inter alia, Dr. Myers is reported to have said that "we are only conscious of a small part of our consciousness". Dr. Myers is not a psycho-analyst, but we find it hard to believe that he was ever guilty of such an Irishism.

The author then describes various methods of exploring the subconscious: automatic writing, crystal gazing, testing the emotions with the sphygmograph and galvanometer, word-association tests, the interpretation of dreams by Freudian and more superficial methods and hypnosis.


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