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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.

Rinaker, C. (1936). A Psychoanalytical Note on Jane Austen. Psychoanal Q., 5:108-115.

(1936). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5:108-115

A Psychoanalytical Note on Jane Austen

Clarissa Rinaker

Since the influence of deep unconscious forces on literary creation is pretty generally recognized, the study of that type of sublimation gives the psychoanalyst an opportunity to meet the layman on common ground and lead him from distrust or prejudice to a more tolerant understanding of the workings of the unconscious.

Jane Austen is particularly attractive for such a study because she is one of the most beloved and apparently "normal" of novelists, and yet the unconscious origin of both her humor and her imaginative inventions is clearly revealed in two short fantasies which can be briefly discussed. Even her admiring grand-nephews recognized in the creation of one of her heroines an unconscious influence, not however internal, but an "external force which she was powerless to resist." (1) Another relative quoted Charlotte Brontë in support of a similar suspicion: "When authors write best, or, at least, when they write most fluently, an influence seems to waken in them, which becomes their master—which will have its own way—putting out of view all behests but its own, dictating certain words … new-molding characters, giving unthought-of turns to incidents, rejecting carefully elaborated old ideas, and suddenly creating and adopting new ones." (2)

The best available evidence as to the nature and tendency of this undefined influence is contained in a letter from the novelist to her sister, Cassandra (3), and in one of her juvenile pieces (4). The letter was written under painful circumstances which were peculiarly likely to stir into activity certain repressed wishes. In November, 1800, while away from home on a visit, she had received the news that her father had suddenly decided to resign his duties at Steventon and move his family to Bath.

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