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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.

Rose, J. (2016). Insight: Essays on Psychoanalytic Knowing by J. Ahumada The New Library of Psychoanalysis, Routledge, Hove, 2011; £23.99. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(4):1210-1212.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(4):1210-1212

Insight: Essays on Psychoanalytic Knowing by J. Ahumada The New Library of Psychoanalysis, Routledge, Hove, 2011; £23.99

Review by:
James Rose

This book offers a timely response to the many challenges made in recent years to the scientific validity of psychoanalysis. Beyond that, there has been the implication as to whether it is unethical to offer an unverified mode of treatment and promise of help to vulnerable people in severe psychic pain. In his introduction, Ahumada states that: “This book has two intertwined purposes: first, to inquire on how insight is gained in clinical psychoanalysis and, second, to clarify the epistemological place of psychoanalysis and its concepts, for which the main hurdle is the conflation of knowledge and certainty in philosophical notions of science.” One might ask at the outset for whom this book is written. It stands with one foot very firmly in philosophy and epistemological analysis. The other is in clinical psychoanalysis. As such, it will therefore appeal to those familiar with the development of epistemological concepts and thus the reasons for the criticism of psychoanalysis as being incapable of being regarded as a science. Jorge Ahumada is a psychoanalyst who is very knowledgeable about these matters. He provides a scholarly description of these ideas from the outset of the development of science. Following the OED, science can be defined as: “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment”. This definition, of course, raises the question of whether and how can we be objective about subjectivity?

The book begins its journey towards a psychoanalytic view of insight acceptable to critics beyond the discipline beginning with thinking about the split between what he calls the empiricist and hermeneutic view.

[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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