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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.

Izenberg, G.N. (2005). Secrets of the soul: A social and cultural history of psychoanalysis By Eli Zaretsky New York: Knopf. 2004. 429 + xv pp.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(3):926-931.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(3):926-931

Secrets of the soul: A social and cultural history of psychoanalysis By Eli Zaretsky New York: Knopf. 2004. 429 + xv pp.

Review by:
Gerald N. Izenberg

The ambition of this book is conveyed in the purposeful ambiguity of its subtitle. ‘Psychoanalysis’ can refer to a therapeutic practice, a theory of the psyche, a set of formal institutions and, most broadly, a cultural tendency, ‘Freudianism,’ constructed by the many-layered reception of its ideas. This book wants to take in all four. It synthesizes vast amounts of material from psychoanalytic writing, the organizational history of psychoanalysis and cultural reactions to Freud in both the popular and intellectual spheres to create a narrative that spans the period from Freud's first writings to the recent past. No other existing work presents the panorama of what psychoanalysis has meant in and to Europe and America over the last century as idea, cultural norm and symbol that Zaretsky's book does.

Secrets of the soul, however, means to do more than present a chronological narrative. A cultural and social historian, Zaretsky is concerned with psychoanalysis less as a clinical therapeutic practice than as a conceptual structure shaping, and shaped by, the wider culture. The huge amount of data potentially relevant to his narrative is culled, and his account organized, by a central socio-historical thesis. In explicit analogy with Max Weber's (1965) argument that Calvinist religion supplied the inner motivation for the rise of modern capitalism, Zaretsky claims that psychoanalysis served as the ‘Calvinism’ that made possible the second industrial revolution, the socio-economic transformation of Europe and America that took place between the 1880s and the 1920s with effects reaching to the present (p.

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