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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.

Zizek, S. (1999). The Thing From Inner Space: Titanic and Deep Impact. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 80(5):1021-1024.

(1999). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 80(5):1021-1024

The Thing From Inner Space: Titanic and Deep Impact

Review by:
Slavoj Zizek

Let us recall the opening scene of Star Wars: at first, all we see is the void—the infinite dark sky, the ominously silent abyss of the universe, with dispersed twinkling stars that are not so much material objects as abstract points, markers of spatial co-ordinates, virtual objects; then, all of a sudden, in Dolby stereo, we hear a thundering sound coming from behind our backs, from our innermost background, later rejoined by the visual object, the source of this sound—the gigantic spaceship, a kind of space version of the Titanic—which triumphantly enters the frame of screen-reality. The object-Thing is thus clearly rendered as a part of ourselves that we eject into reality. This intrusion of the massive Thing seems to bring relief, cancelling the horror vacui of staring at the infinite void of the universe; however, what if its actual effect is the exact opposite? What if the true horror is that of Something—the intrusion of some excessive massive Real—where we expect Nothing? This experience of ‘Something (the stain of the Real) instead of Nothing’ may be at the root of the metaphysical question ‘Why is there something instead of nothing?’

How does this traumatic Thing relate to the libidinal economy of the subjects affected by it? Let us begin with James Cameron's Titanic: not only is the Titanic a Thing par excellence, a mysterious object dwelling in the deep of the ocean, so that when human beings approach it and take photographs of it, this disturbance of the peace of the wreck is experienced as the transgressive entry into a forbidden domain; perhaps the key to the film's success is the way in which it implicitly relates the Thing to the deadlocks of sexual relationship.

[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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