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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.

Lewin, B.D. (1935). Claustrophobia. Psychoanal Q., 4:227-233.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 4:227-233


Bertram D. Lewin

The technical term claustrophobia, introduced into medical literature by Raggi of Bologna in 1871, means literally a dread of being enclosed. There are several forms such a dread may take, and several fears that are akin to it, but current linguistic usage tends to limit the application of the term to a special type of fear dramatized for us by Poe in the Pit and the Pendulum—a fear of being caught or crushed by a gradual closing in of the space about one. This definition, which will be followed in the present essay, would exclude such fears as that of entering a closed space, which might if one wishes be considered "claustrophoboid"; but the reason for this strict definition will become clear as we proceed.

Claustrophobia is a type of morbid fear, a form of anxiety hysteria, yet despite the numerous detailed studies of anxiety hysteria to be found in the psychoanalytic literature, there are nevertheless few references concerning this particular phobia. Jones in one place remarks that dreams and fantasies concerning one's own birth are very common especially in childhood and that these fantasies constitute the basis of such phobias as being buried alive or being shut in an enclosed space (i.e., claustrophobia) and many others. Ferenczi too refers to the association between claustrophobia and the idea of being within one's mother: "The psychoanalysis of numerous dreams and of neurotic claustrophobia explains the fear of being buried alive as the transformation into dread of the wish to return to the womb." Elsewhere Ferenczi states that claustrophobia and a fear of being alone in any closed room in one of his patients developed from an attempt to overcome masturbation.

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