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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.

(1970). The Design Within: Psychoanalytic Approaches to Shakespeare: Edited by M. D. Faber. New York: Science House. 1970. Pp. 551.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 51:560.

(1970). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 51:560

The Design Within: Psychoanalytic Approaches to Shakespeare: Edited by M. D. Faber. New York: Science House. 1970. Pp. 551.

In this handsomely produced volume Professor Faber has anthologized 33 papers on Shakespearean plays by psychoanalysts and literary critics whose work has been influenced by psychoanalysis. The material is judiciously selected and edited with explanatory notes and bibliographies. Professor Faber has also written an excellent and informative introduction where he discusses with shrewd and positive judgement the issues raised by the application of psychoanalytic theories towards an understanding of literature, especially Shakespeare's plays. With Freud, Professor Faber argues, the discussion of 'works of art as coherent dreams' became possible. And most analysts will readily agree with his inference that 'they [the analysts] can approach the work primarily as an illustration of an unconscious struggle, presumably Shakespeare's, or they can approach Shakespeare's unconscious struggles through the avenue of the work. When the emphasis falls upon the work side of this symbiotic scheme (invariably it is a question of emphasis) the result is apt to be closer to what we normally regard as literary criticism than when it falls on the man side.' Professor Faber has prefaced each paper with introductory remarks that provide useful references to relevant material elsewhere. At present, a spate of anthologies are appearing everywhere and on all topics. Professor Faber's anthology is a model of how such an anthology should be selected and annotated, so that it is not merely a jumble of papers but a true guide to the whole literature on the subject. The only serious omission, one feels, is that of Ella Sharpe's papers on Shakespeare's King Lear and Hamlet.

[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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