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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.

Deutsch, F. (1936). Euthanasia: A Clinical Study. Psychoanal Q., 5:347-368.

(1936). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5:347-368

Euthanasia: A Clinical Study

Felix Deutsch

Since the death instinct has become recognized as the antithesis of Eros, there have been many important contributions to analytical literature concerning death and the fear of death. Freud has discussed death at considerable length in his essay, Reflections on War and Death, and in his book, Totem and Tabu. My remarks on euthanasia hence do not purport to add anything to what has already been said of the part which a sense of guilt plays in the fear of death, nor to provide fresh evidence that the drama of the fear of death is enacted between the ego and the superego, or that it may be regarded as an elaboration of castration anxiety.

The following exposition is neither literary nor philosophical; that aspect of the subject must, I think, be left to those who specialize in the cultural disciplines. My passing references to belles lettres are, therefore, only incidental.

What I have to contribute has chiefly been learned at the bedside of the fatally ill; it seems to me to have yielded a psychological understanding of peaceful dying. I want to present you with a little picture-book of the dying—illustrations which certainly cannot be said to have a "happy ending", but nevertheless have an ending which does not leave us inconsolable.

A few years ago the following case came under my observation in a hospital.

A young school teacher, who after an operation for cancer of the uterus had developed metastases all over the body, and for whom there was little hope of recovery, was admitted for treatment. The bones in particular had speedily become affected by the malignant disease. There can be no doubt that her rapid loss of strength and her realization of the nature of her illness must have convinced her that there was no chance of cure.

[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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