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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.

Horkheimer, M. (1948). Ernst Simmel and Freudian Philosophy. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 29:110-113.

(1948). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 29:110-113

Ernst Simmel and Freudian Philosophy

Max Horkheimer

It may sound unorthodox to speak about Simmel and Freud as philosophers. The very concept of a Freudian philosophy appears almost as a contradiction in terms. Is not psychology a science and science clearly separated from philosophy? The word philosophy seems to remind us of rationalizations of unconscious wishes, hypostatization of dreams and ideologies, the very objects unveiled by Freud's analytical research. In disregard of existing taboos, he dared look behind the cloak of lofty ideas and ideals and made it his task to trace back individual as well as social habits and attitudes to primitive biological drives. The conflict of these drives with the prevailing framework of civilization served him as the principle of explanation in order to debunk not a few of the religious and philosophical entities which people like to offer as their motives. Freud and his most congenial disciples, among whom Ernst Simmel certainly belonged, were the relentless enemies of intellectual super-structures including the metaphysical hiding places of the mind. It was his credo 'that there is no other source of knowledge of the Universe but the intellectual processing of carefully verified observation, in fact what is called Research, and that no knowledge can be obtained from revelation, intuition, or inspiration'. Does not Simmel's clear voice ring in our ears when we read how Freud quoted Heinrich Heine's persiflage of the idealistic philosopher: 'With his nightcap and his nightshirt-tappers, he botches up the loopholes in the structure of the world.

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