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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.

Anthi, P.R. (1999). Roald Amundsen: A Study in Rivalry, Masochism and Paranoia. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(5):995-1010.

(1999). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80(5):995-1010

Roald Amundsen: A Study in Rivalry, Masochism and Paranoia

Per R. Anthi

The author suggest that Freud was intrigued by those who explored the still unknown regions of the globe; in 1928 he received a letter from a colleague who knew he was interested in the psychology of polar explorers, asking him to comment on some strange visualisations that had haunted Roald Amundsen, the great polar explorer, when during one of his Arctic expeditions he was attacked and nearly mauled to death by a polar bear. Freud emphasised the quality of resignation and surrender inherent in these peculiar imaginings, but he added that a deeper analysis would require Amundsen's associations. On the basis of relevant biographical data the author tries to make a further investigation of his strange visualisations. These are linked to an underlying masochistic phantasy in which conflicts involving rivalry, autonomy and separationindividuation problems are expressed. He attained the South Pole before Scott and his party, who perished. His triumph and survival on the polar ice evoked an unbearable sense of guilt. Being unable to gain insight into his conflicts, he regressed to a paranoid state. The relation between masochism, the desire to beat and be beaten and rivalry is discussed.

[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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