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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.

Poland, W.S. (2005). On: A boycott by passport [Letter]. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(3):902-903.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(3):902-903

On: A boycott by passport [Letter]

Warren S. Poland

Edited by:
Glen O. Gabbard and Paul Williams

The Editors regret publishing Kemp (2005) that contained partisan hatefulness. With the following letter from Warren Poland, we close the discussion.

Dear Sirs,

At a time when science is under political assault around the world and intellectual freedom faces powerful polemical enemies, Gabbard and Williams (2002)—along with the editors of most psychoanalytic journals—spoke out to “condemn recent actions that have denied academic freedom to individuals solely on the basis of their nationality”. In a responsive letter, Kemp (2005) condemned that editorial statement in a “condensed response” that “subsitute[d] for a reasoned analysis of the original editorial” [his words].

Having made their eloquent and sensitive point, I believe the editors were prudent in resisting the temptation to descend from their academic concern into the polemics of international events. However, one statement made by Kemp is so vilely destructive that it cannot be allowed to stand unanswered: He writes, as if it were a fact rather than his passionate prejudice, “Zionism is a racist ideology.” Even under the sway of the numerical power of the Arab states, the United Nations has properly repudiated that canard. What Kemp's intemperate partisanship leaves absent from his letter is a respect, if not a sympathy, for the horrors and sufferings of humanity on both sides in the Middle East conflict.

Despite his incendiary provocations, best dealt with outside the IJP arena, Kemp's letter opens another point cogent to both psychoanalytic practice and theory.

[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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