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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.

Angelergues, J. (2016). La puissance du vieillir [The Power of Growing Old] by François Villa PUF, Paris, 2010; 272 pp; £ 32.00. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(2):548-551.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(2):548-551

La puissance du vieillir [The Power of Growing Old] by François Villa PUF, Paris, 2010; 272 pp; £ 32.00

Review by:
J. Angelergues

François Villa's book is based on revised versions of several papers that he wrote between 1992 and 2008. In these, he describes the development of his thinking, the coherence of which gradually took shape thanks to his clinical work as a therapist and to his ideas concerning the psychopathology of everyday life.

The book begins with the question whether therapeutic work can still be undertaken when the patient's age would seem to set some limit on that possibility. Freud argued that reaching a certain age was more often than not a counter-indication as regards beginning psychoanalytical treatment; this was not so much because of the length of time involved in the treatment but, as Villa emphasizes, because of the influence of psychical economic factors on the possibility of undertaking analysis - a dimension that, in 1937, Freud reproached himself for having neglected. Over the course of time, the capacity for displacement and for transforming quantity into quality diminishes: there is a gradual loss of psychical elasticity. This sometimes manifests itself as a kind of viscosity of the libido, with fixations that refuse to be processed adequately without there being any identifiable reason for this. Villa argues that neglecting the dimension of psychical economy is “brought about by the way in which the mental apparatus functions; it is a side-effect of this”.

It is important to draw a distinction between growing old and dying. Villa in fact argues that: “Death is not the consequence of growing old but the interruption of that process”.

[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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