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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.

Fremantle, A. (1956). American Literature and the Dream: By Frederic I. Carpenter. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1955. 220 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 25:590-593.

(1956). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 25:590-593

American Literature and the Dream: By Frederic I. Carpenter. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1955. 220 pp.

Review by:
Anne Fremantle

The Pentagon, it appears, is seriously distressed by the fact that of the United States soldiers taken prisoner and brain-washed in China, two thirds succumbed, and one third have been permanently affected. Dr. Carpenter, of the University of California, has written a penetrating and provoking analysis of the 'American Dream', as it has affected American literature and has been reflected through it, and deflected by it, which should be prescribed reading for all who seek reasons why the status quo in the greatest democracy on earth so often fails to provide moral and intellectual answers to totalitarian propaganda.

Dr. Carpenter points out that although the 'American Dream' has never been clearly defined, American literature differs from English because of the constant and omnipresent influence of the American Dream upon it, and he discusses this Dream in terms of its philosophers, the transcendentalists; its opponents, the genteel traditionalists; its enthusiasts, the romantics; and its critics, the realists, thus preserving the divisions commonly accorded the many authors who incorporated or interpreted the Dream, in however contrary fashion.

From 1654 to 1954 'the millennial hope of an ideal new world' was constantly repeated: in the Bill of Rights as in Leaves of Grass, in O'Neill's Beyond the Horizon as in Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith. In 1931 the Dream was described as 'the greatest contribution we have as yet made to the thought and welfare of the world'. The Dream is composed of the twin ideas of progress and of 'a better, richer, and happier life', projected upon the new world—here, and only here, is the place where these hopes will materialize, since they are the 'local and temporal application of an essentially universal and eternal idea'.

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