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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.

Bartemeier, L.H. (1941). A Counting Compulsion—A Contribution to the Unconscious Meaning of Time. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 22:301-309.

(1941). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 22:301-309

A Counting Compulsion—A Contribution to the Unconscious Meaning of Time

Leo H. Bartemeier

It is a fact of our common observation that an occasional compulsiveness in counting is one of the manifestations of the psychopathology of everyday life. En route to the theatre, for example, many persons remain uneasy and only become more comfortable after they have counted their tickets again although they know they have the correct number. It is not uncommon for us to note the occasional occurrence of compulsive counting in patients who consult us for other reasons which are far more important to them. It is rather rare, however, for a counting compulsion to be one of the principal complaints which brings a person to analysis, so that only infrequently do we have the opportunity to investigate the significance of such a problem quite extensively. Inasmuch as counting is itself intimately related to our psychological conceptions of time and space, whatever additional information we can gain about compulsive counting may throw further light on these phenomena, about which our knowledge remains incomplete. This communication will confine itself to the probable ætiological factors in a counting compulsion and its significance in the psychic economy of a young married woman who came into analysis.

Only a few articles on this subject have appeared in the psychoanalytical literature. Freud (1895) wrote briefly about a woman who 'became obliged to count the boards in the floor, the steps in the staircase, etc.—acts which she performed in a state of ridiculous distress. She had begun the counting in order to turn her mind from obsessive ideas of temptation. She had succeeded in so doing, but the impulse to count had replaced the original obsession.'

Hárnik (1924) referred to Reik and to Róheim, who had emphasized the sadistic element in counting and the rôle of dominating, controlling and taking possession of objects through this process.

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