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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.

Paul, R.A. (1995). Between Author and Reader: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Writing and Reading. : By Stanley J. Coen. New York: Columbia University Press. 1994. Pp. 210.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 76:410-411.

(1995). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 76:410-411

Between Author and Reader: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Writing and Reading. : By Stanley J. Coen. New York: Columbia University Press. 1994. Pp. 210.

Robert A. Paul

Coen’s thoughtful and valuable book is a response, within the changing climate of current psychoanalytic practice, to the question of what (if anything) psychoanalysis can bring to the study of literature. Coen argues that the frequent focus of psychoanalytic criticism on the identification of psychosexual fantasy content in a work of literature, understood as a compromise formation, leads to premature explanatory closure of a kind we would not find satisfactory in contemporary clinical practice. Too often, Coen suggests, attempts to analyse authors on the basis of their works, or to treat fictional characters as if they themselves could be analysed, yield reductionistic or unwarranted conclusions that are insensitive to the actual responses in the here and now of the reader experiencing the open-ended complexities of the work. Just as analytic practice has moved away from simply informing patients of what unconscious fantasy is at work as they freely associate, and towards focusing instead on what is actually happening between the two people in the room, so too in the realm of literature we should examine the interaction between an author and a reader, asking the same sort of questions we ask ourselves in practising analysis: what response does one person in this situation wish to elicit from the other at this moment, and why, and how?

Coen provides models of his suggested procedure by examining the cases of four writers: Jean Gênet, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Marquis de Sade, and Freud in his letters to Fliess.

[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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