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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.

Eder, M.D. (1928). Sexual Apathy and Coldness in Women: By Walter M. Gallichan. (London: T. Werner Laurie, Ltd. Pp. 183. 7 s. 6 d. net.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 9:128-129.

(1928). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 9:128-129

Sexual Apathy and Coldness in Women: By Walter M. Gallichan. (London: T. Werner Laurie, Ltd. Pp. 183. 7 s. 6 d. net.)

Review by:
M. D. Eder

It is all to the good that laymen step in where doctors fear to tread, provided they write with the good sense and with the moderation of the writer of this book. Sexual anæsthesia is extremely common in women. In the main its causes are to be found in the unconscious mental life; but it is certainly true, as Mr. Gallichan contends, that the whole social structure of our day—that is, of the Occidental world—aggravates the condition even where there is a serious unconscious factor, and determines it for many when the unconscious factors are minimal. I do not know what evidence the author has for attributing sexual anæsthesia to heredity. That the cold mother has cold children may be a correct observation, but we have knowledge sufficient about the origin of the psychoneuroses and of character formation to absolve heredity as the sole, or even the chief agent. Probably by 'genuine congenital sexual frigidity' the author understands some anatomical or physiological abnormality. That a good deal of marital discomfort and unhappiness could be removed by a better knowledge of our sexual life is undoubtedly true. Even with this corrected there will be quite sufficient sexual trouble to provide handsome livelihoods for many generations of doctors, lawyers and writers. If occasionally Mr.

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