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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.

Carlson, S. (2016). Please Select Your Gender: From the Invention of Hysteria to the Democratizing of Transgenderism by Patricia Gherovici Routledge, New York, 2010; 280 pp; $42.26.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(1):239-243.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(1):239-243

Please Select Your Gender: From the Invention of Hysteria to the Democratizing of Transgenderism by Patricia Gherovici Routledge, New York, 2010; 280 pp; $42.26.

Review by:
Shanna Carlson

In Please select your gender: From the invention of hysteria to the democratizing of transgenderism, Lacanian psychoanalyst Patricia Gherovici proceeds from an ethical premise. In her own words: “I have tried to explore what it means to sustain the analytic promise, to operate with the analyst's desire for pure difference in today's cultural context” (p. 247). This ethical premise, which informs how she listens to her analysands, may explain why so much of the book sounds rather strange, knitting together as it does singular truths and episodes articulated in the clinical setting, where free association reigns. Gherovici's discussion of sexual difference and transgender identity draws on sources that would be familiar to students of psychoanalytic, queer, or transgender theory. Her core arguments, however, do not sit easily with the historic Lacanian take on transgender people, or with queer theory doxa, or (more predictably) with dominant ideas about sex and gender in the U.S. today. These arguments include the notion that sexual identity at its seeming easiest is only ever “a happy uncertainty” (p. 185), that “sex needs to be symbolized, and gender needs to be embodied” (p. 230), and that some “sexes” today may be sinthomatic, thus of a different order altogether than either biological sex or gender identity. These claims, which rest on her analysands’ innovations as articulated in the clinic, have the potential to revolutionize how Lacanians work with transgender, transsexual, and gender-non-conforming analysands.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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