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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.

Ramzy, I. (1963). The Plurality of Determinants in Psycho-Analysis. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 44:444-453.

(1963). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 44:444-453

The Plurality of Determinants in Psycho-Analysis

Ishak Ramzy

Ever since Freud started to announce his findings concerning the human mind, almost nothing of his views has been left uncontested. When he asserted the importance of the unconscious, he was criticized for his neglect of the conscious; when he emphasized the role of sexuality, he was accused of having reduced everything to pleasure and eroticism. If he talked instinct, he was asked what about environment; when he talked biology, he was asked about sociology; and when he underlined childhood traumata and neurosis, he was asked what about the stress of life in adulthood, physical, emotional, and economic.

This was the main line of argument used against psycho-analysis, not only by its critics and adversaries, but often also by some of its own followers. The old arguments have not stopped. Still psycho-analysis is accused of being a narrow outlook which does not take into consideration much of that which enters into the fabric of human beings. Strangely enough, most of the contemporary attacks against psycho-analysis are being hurled by its own people. However, it is often the case that the newer attempts, like the older ones, are mainly sustained by the wilful or inadvertent neglect to recognize one or the other of the few fundamental postulates of this discipline.

Probably no one is to blame for the old controversies or the new more than Freud himself. Beyond the historical and human factors which may have led to the controversies and the disputes, and beyond Freud's aversion to answering criticisms, the motives of which he knew only too well, he adopted toward the other disciplines overlapping psycho-analysis a haughty attitude of lofty indifference, which was mimicked by some of his followers as defensive avoidance.

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