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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.

Arlow, J.A. (1973). Perspectives on Aggression in Human Adaptation. Psychoanal Q., 42:178-184.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:178-184

Perspectives on Aggression in Human Adaptation

Jacob A. Arlow, M.D.

It would be hard to imagine a more appropriate subject toward which those working in the fields of psychiatry, sociology, and the humanities should bend their efforts. In our age, aggression and its role in human affairs have become part of the crisis of man. Out of his staggering capacity for adaptation, man has developed instrumentalities of violence that could put an end to the history of this planet. The issues involved have been drawn with such clarity by Daniels, Gilula, and Ochberg (1970) in their recent book, Violence and the Struggle for Existence, that I quote them directly.

Violence is unique to no particular region, nation, or time. Centuries ago man survived primarily as a nomadic hunter relying on violent aggression for both food and protection. Even when becoming agricultural and sedentary, man struggled against nature, and survival still required violent aggression, especially for maintaining territory when food was scarce.

Then in a moment of evolution man's energies suddenly produced the age of technology. Instead of adapting mainly by way of biological evolution, we are now increasingly subject to the effects and demands of cultural evolution. Instead of having to adapt to our environment, we now can adapt our environment to our needs.

[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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