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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.

Werbart, A. (2005). The patient's private construction of meaning and canons of science: Freud's case studies noch einmal. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 86(5):1441-1461.

(2005). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 86(5):1441-1461

The patient's private construction of meaning and canons of science: Freud's case studies noch einmal

Andrzej Werbart

Starting from Freud's classical case studies, the author highlights the tension between the psychoanalytical starting point in the subject's own meaning construction and the claims of the professional expert to objectivity, privileged knowledge and interpretative precedence. Psychoanalytic investigation of subjective phenomena came into existence parallel with Freud's magnificent project to furnish ‘a psychology that shall be a natural science’. The privileged knowledge of the specialist was substituted by the explicit intention to listen to the individual's own stories and private explanatory constructions. In order to investigate the territory of the unconscious, Freud had to develop various strategies for uncovering and correcting errors, and for testing clinically anchored hypotheses. However, Freud regularly failed to follow his own intentions. The thesis the author presents here is that departures from the explicit ambition to follow the subject's own meaning construction, and departures from the scientific attitude, easy to trace in Freud's case studies, accompany each other. These departures have had far-reaching consequences for the present status of the psychoanalytic knowledge.

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