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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.

Mitchell, J. (1991). Black Sun: By Julia Kristeva. Translated by Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press. 1989. Pp. 300 + vii.. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 18:557-559.

(1991). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 18:557-559

Black Sun: By Julia Kristeva. Translated by Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press. 1989. Pp. 300 + vii.

Review by:
Juliet Mitchell

To summarize Julia Kristeva's argument in Black Sun is to travesty it. In essence it is simple, even familiar; her deployment of it is not. Indeed it is extraordinarily rich. But the travesty is not only in the necessary reduction but also in any linear presentation. As with the construction of the psyche, Kristeva's narrative does not proceed along tracks but enfolds itself in new but repetitive patterns towards the same thematic figure in the carpet.

Here the theme is the place and, in a sense, the personality of melancholia; the attributes and raison d'être of what I shall call 'primal' depression. For Kristeva, melancholia is to be located in the prospect of severance.

To start with, and of course as a possibility all the time, there is for homo sapiens no distinction between subject and object. In reality, however, there is the baby (or oneself) and the world out there. This world Lacan called 'the real' and Kristeva, following Heidegger, the 'Thing'. The 'Thing' as a designation—unlike the 'real'—indicates proleptically that it is not but will become an object. Looked back at it is a pre-object. We are in the borderland territory between the biological and the psychological, the terrain of Freud's theory of instincts.

Melancholia or primal depression is the response to the pre-perception of the severance that will have to take place from the Thing for the subject and object to come into being. It is the symptom which bears witness to the split in the ego which constitutes the ego and the other.

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