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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.

Kaplan, D.M. (1990). Tragic Drama and the Family. Psychoanalytic Studies from Aeschylus to Beckett: By Bennett Simon. New Haven/London: Yale University Press. 1988. Pp. 274.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 17:127-130.

(1990). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 17:127-130

Tragic Drama and the Family. Psychoanalytic Studies from Aeschylus to Beckett: By Bennett Simon. New Haven/London: Yale University Press. 1988. Pp. 274.

Review by:
Donald M. Kaplan

The plight of being human, which is so central to the interests of psychoanalysis, is also the subject of art. This is why it was plausible for Freud to have looked to art now and again in the development of his thought. On the other hand, works of art are not patients and therefore cannot protest wild analyses and other kinds of malpractice. Hence a certain suspicion has long obtained in connexion with what we call applied psychoanalysis, as if the defenceless objects of its study required of us a special protective attitude. While this state of affairs has sometimes led to an excessive scepticism towards any commerce between psychoanalysis and art, it has also improved the quality of applied psychoanalysis because of the criticality such endeavour must survive. Any worth-while psychoanalytic reflection on culture now takes some exceptional doing. The result is that over the past fifteen or so years the literature of applied psychoanalysis has rewarded careful study in ways it never did before.

Thus it is momentous praise to observe that Bennett Simon's current book Tragic Drama and the Family is a towering achievement of applied psychoanalysis. But, then, this should come as no surprise; for Simon has been in the vanguard of this present stage of applied psychoanalysis for quite a long time. For 25 years, he has been diligently at work on the psychoanalysis of tragic, epic and philosophic literature, and, in one publication after another, he has given us a brilliant record of this activity.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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