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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.

Goetzmann, L. Benden, C. Ruettner, B. Wutzler, U. Boehler, A. Wittmann, L. (2019). The experience of transplantation as reflected in dream life: A case study illustrating the mental processing of a lung transplant. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 100(3):517-539.

(2019). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 100(3):517-539


The experience of transplantation as reflected in dream life: A case study illustrating the mental processing of a lung transplant

Lutz Goetzmann, Christian Benden, Barbara Ruettner, Uwe Wutzler, Annette Boehler and Lutz Wittmann

Although it is well known that a lung transplant enhances the recipients quality of life, our knowledge of how it is processed mentally is limited. In this study, interviews were conducted with a lung-transplant patient two weeks, three months, and six months after surgery so as to investigate the relevant unconscious processing mechanisms. A dream reported in the first interview was analysed in accordance withapplying the Zurich Dream Process Coding System. A transplantation complex was reconstructed on the basis of various sources of information (the dream and the waking narratives). The principal aspects of the transplantation complex that emerged from both the dream and the waking narratives concerned the oral-sadistic phantasy that the donor had been killed and that his lung, or soul, had been violently incorporated in the patient. The main unconscious themes involved in the processing of the transplant were found to have been already laid down in the dream and to have been presented in it in the form of visual analogues. According to our interpretation of the data analysed, powerful cannibalistic phantasies and death wishes played an important part in the processing of the transplant. These archaic phantasies may have been actualized by the transplant.

[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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