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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.

Green, A. (1973). On Negative Capability—A Critical Review of W. R. Bion's Attention and Interpretation. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 54:115-119.

(1973). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 54:115-119

On Negative Capability—A Critical Review of W. R. Bion's Attention and Interpretation

André Green

… Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. JOHN KEATS (Letter to George and Thomas Keats, 21 December 1817)

Trying to find out where the title of this book came from, I suddently realized that reading it could not conjure within me the feeling that its content directly dealt with any of the key-words supposed to represent the substance of the work. This led me to think that here again I was faced with one of those instances where the author, while trying to emulate and apply his model's theories, had come up with a container (the title) incapable of housing its content; the substance of the book, as in the case of analytic experience, could not be encompassed within the analyst's consulting room.

Actually, the word 'attention' is not even mentioned in the index and as to the term 'interpretation', what it referred to in the book reminded me, had I had half a mind to forget about it, of the author's warning against the exaggerated importance—and to go as far as the author, against the lack of value—in the act of interpreting of the idea that it is necessarily related to the interpreter's knowledge, experience and personality (p. 105). In fact, the person responsible for the interpretation (my own position vis-à-vis this book I had to comment upon) must do away with the feeling of kinship he might be tempted to establish between himself and the object of his interpretation.

[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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