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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.

Kowalik, J.A. (2009). Émigré Analysts of the 1930s and their Loss of the Mother Tongue: Difficulties in Writing the History of Psychoanalysis in Southern California. Psychoanal. Hist., 11(1):75-90.

(2009). Psychoanalysis and History, 11(1):75-90

Émigré Analysts of the 1930s and their Loss of the Mother Tongue: Difficulties in Writing the History of Psychoanalysis in Southern California

Jill Anne Kowalik

Introductory Note

Jill Kowalik, PhD (1949-2003), Associate Professor of German at UCLA, a second-year candidate at the Los Angeles Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, presented the following paper as an introduction to the one day UCLA conference on ‘Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles: A Case of Cultural Transfer’ in conjunction with the 75th Anniversary Celebration of UCLA in January 1996. Jill died in 2003 of the breast cancer she had been diagnosed with in 1989. The essay was found among her posthumous writings. By the time of her death, Jill had published a book on German eighteenth-century literature, The Poetics of Historical Perspectivism (University of North Carolina Press, 1992), some 10 articles in professional journals, numerous reviews, and she was working on another book tentatively entitled Theology and Dehumanization, a literary study of the trauma of the Thirty Years War and the representation of melancholy and unresolved mourning in German literature of the eighteenth century. This study is to appear as a fragment in 2009 with Peter Lang, Berliner Beiträge. In the essay printed below, Jill Kowalik uses her double training in German language and literature and in psychoanalysis to question what role the émigré analysts’ sudden loss of their mother tongues played in their lives in their new country and in their functioning as analysts and founders of several of the Southern Californian Institutes. She maintains that a history using the methods of psychoanalysis and studying the traumas and the resulting vulnerabilities of the émigré analysts might offer a more differentiated and discerning history of psychoanalysis in Southern California than the available histories of institutional politics and the hagiographies of the European founders who brought psychoanalytic European culture to Southern California.

[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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