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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.

Bond, A.H. (1986). Virginia Woolf and Leslie Stephen: A Father's Contribution to Psychosis and Genius. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 14(4):507-524.

(1986). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 14(4):507-524

Virginia Woolf and Leslie Stephen: A Father's Contribution to Psychosis and Genius

Alma H. Bond, Ph.D.

This paper is an attempt to understand the character of Leslie Stephen, Virginia Woolf's father, and the manner in which he interacted with her early psychic structure. It is also a further attempt (see Bond, 1985) to investigate the origin of both her psychosis and her genius and to understand the comparative contributions of heredity and environment.

To begin with, let us examine the negative as well as the positive effects of Leslie Stephen's character on Virginia Woolf as revealed in To the Lighthouse (Woolf, 1927). This autobiographical novel concerns the attempts of a family to achieve its symbolic goal. The book, which is divided into three parts, can be analyzed into various times-pans which represent the development of Virginia Woolf's life and character. The first section, entitled “The Window,” represents the development of Virginia's personality structure as it unfolded during her early life with her mother. This is discussed in detail in my earlier paper (Bond, 1985), which hypothesizes that Virginia was terrified of reengulfment during the reapproachment stage of separation-individuation and ran away from her mother into madness. The period covered in this section ended with her mother's death. The second section of the novel is entitled “Time Passes” and symbolizes the 7 year hiatus of dissolution and despair experienced by Virginia and her family following the death of Mrs. Stephen. It also represents the aftermath of Virginia's failure to connect emotionally with her mother, when the child ostensibly sank into the forerunner of her psychotic depressions.

[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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