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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.

Seelig, B.J. (2002). The Rape of Medusa in the Temple of Athena: Aspects of Triangulation in the Girl. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 83(4):895-911.

(2002). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 83(4):895-911

The Rape of Medusa in the Temple of Athena: Aspects of Triangulation in the Girl

Beth J. Seelig, M.D.

The relationship between the Greek goddess Athena and her father Zeus, together with the competitive hostility she displays towards other females, is presented as illustrating some previously neglected aspects of triangular developmental conflicts in the little girl. Literature on ‘the Oedipus complex in the female’ is reviewed and discussed. The mythological early histories of both Athena and the female monster Medusa are examined for the light they can shed on female developmental vicissitudes and resultant conflicts in both women and men. Unconscious split representations of women as assertive, phallic and dangerous, or alternatively passive, castrated and receptive result in defensive repudiation of the idea that a woman can be both actively assertive and also feminine and sexual. Athena's enraged action of transforming the beautiful young maiden Medusa into a monster as punishment for the ‘crime’ of having been raped in her temple is discussed as illustrating an outcome of the lack of resolution of the little girl's early triangular conflicts.

[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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