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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.

(1960). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. V, 1957: A Study of the Preliminary Stages of the Construction of Dreams and Images. Charles Fisher. Pp. 5-60.. Psychoanal Q., 29:278.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. V, 1957: A Study of the Preliminary Stages of the Construction of Dreams and Images. Charles Fisher. Pp. 5-60.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:278

Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. V, 1957: A Study of the Preliminary Stages of the Construction of Dreams and Images. Charles Fisher. Pp. 5-60.

Subliminally perceived pictures are registered as memory images and appear to the subject during the period of 'free imagery' as formally and structurally similar, though often distorted, visual images. The images range from exact reproduction of the perceptual stimulus to distortions and condensations by other recent memory images, childhood memory images, and unconscious wishes (hence their similarity to the manifest dream reported by the subjects). The appearance of such conscious imagery from subliminal recorded percepts depends in part on defensive activity. The author concludes that preconscious percepts outside of awareness are particularly apt to be utilized by unconscious wishes. Furthermore, conscious perception proceeds via three steps: preconscious registration; contact with pre-existing memory schemata; and emergence into consciousness, the latter step being delayed only if the perceptual stimulus is subliminal. Distortions and condensation of the latter type of stimulus probably occur during the second of these three steps. Besides immediate entry into consciousness, there may be delivery into consciousness after a latent period, in the form of image, dream, or hallucination, or the registered percept may become an unconscious memory image per se.

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Article Citation

(1960). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. V, 1957. Psychoanal. Q., 29:278

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