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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.

Freud, S. (1924). The Passing of the Oedipus Complex. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 5:419-424.

(1924). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 5:419-424

The Passing of the Oedipus Complex

Sigmund Freud

The significance of the Oedipus complex as the central phenomenon of the sexual period in early childhood reveals itself more and more. After this it disappears; it succumbs to repression, as we say, and is followed by the latency period. But it is not yet clear to us what occasions its decay; analyses seem to show that the painful disappointments experienced bring this about. The little girl who wants to believe herself her father's partner in love must one day endure a harsh punishment at his hands, and find herself hurled to earth from her cloud-castles. The boy who regards his mother as his own property finds that her love and care for him are transferred to a new arrival. Reflection deepens the effect of these impressions by insisting that painful experiences of this kind, antagonistic to the content of the complex, are inevitable. Even when no special events such as those mentioned occur, the absence of the hoped-for gratification, the continual frustration of the wish for a child, causes the love-lorn little one to turn from its hopeless longing. According to this, the Oedipus complex becomes extinguished by its lack of success, the result of its inherent impossibility.

Another view would put it that the Oedipus complex must come to an end because the time has come for its dissolution, just as the milk-teeth fall out when the permanent ones begin to press forward.

[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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