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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.

Sedlak, V. (1995). Mental Space. : By Salomon Resnik. London: Karnac Books. 1995. Pp. 111 + xxi.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 76:1073-1074.

(1995). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 76:1073-1074

Mental Space. : By Salomon Resnik. London: Karnac Books. 1995. Pp. 111 + xxi.

Review by:
Victor Sedlak

Salomon Resnik was first trained in Buenos Aires. Then, after a short stay in Paris, he had further training in London and now he works in Paris, but other environments—particularly Italy—are also important to him. The book reflects this pluralistic psychoanalytic and cultural background and is richly illustrated by the author’s interests in classical mythology, contemporary literature, philosophy, science and above all modern painting, which he uses liberally to illuminate his arguments. So rich is this profusion of influences and associations that the reader has to work at times to follow the thread of an argument, but the byways into which Resnik’s thinking leads are nearly always interesting.

The book began as a series of seminars that the author gave at the Sorbonne, which were then modified by the discussion and further thinking that they provoked. Above all, it is a book about certain pathological states of mind characterised by lifelessness, a greatly impaired capacity to emote, imagine, think (particularly introspectively but also about the external world) and dream. The author’s interest is in the destruction or distortion of the mental space in which these functions can be exercised. He is careful to associate this with psychic distortions of physical space such as can be seen in claustrophobia and with the perception or misperception of internal physical space that underlies hypochondriacal concerns.

[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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