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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.

Kristeva, J. (2000). From Symbols to Flesh: The Polymorphous Destiny of Narration. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 81(4):771-787.

(2000). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 81(4):771-787

From Symbols to Flesh: The Polymorphous Destiny of Narration

Julia Kristeva

The author analyses certain aspects of the narration of a generally taciturn hysterico-phobic obsessional patient as they appear in the transference relationship, pinpointing its phallic mastery and the sadistic impact of the domination over the audience/analyst that underlies this mode of discourse. She examines them in relation to Proust's ‘À la recherche du temps perdu’, discussing the place of perversion in analytic listening and interpretation. She then outlines some of the key structuralist and formalist views of narration as a form of syntactic structure expanded by the resolution of an enigma via a hero's ordeal, arguing that if syntactic structure exists, it consists neither of affirmation nor of negation but rather of interrogation. The author notes that what makes psychoanalytic theory radically different from other interpretive theories is the co-presence of sexuality and thought: psychoanalysis reinforces the formal description of a signifying act by the unconscious psychosexual conditions of its possibility. She then discussés the poetic narrative of Nerval and also that of Proust, which is dominated by the acting out of perverse fantasy, the resulting polyphony of various psychosexual registers, its philosophical and metaphysical impact and its relevance to the analyst's own interpretive acts when formulating stories within the countertransference 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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