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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.

Haber, C.H. (1973). Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York. Psychoanal Q., 42:662-664.

(1973). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 42:662-664

Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York

Calvin H. Haber


The author compares the ideal psychoanalyst to the physicist who searches for infinity: the fact that he knows infinity is unattainable does not hinder him from approaching it with keen curiosity. If the harmony that develops in analysis between the internal and external worlds could be maintained, an ideal psychoanalytic experience might be achieved.

Resistance to the acceptance of the unconscious is found in the attitudes of psychiatrists, psychoanalytic students, and in patients undergoing re-analysis. This attitude is also seen in popular literature with its simplistic solutions to complex psychological problems. Nonacceptance of the unconscious may be caused by its identification with the idea of death. Dr. Keiser wonders if the wish fulfilment of the unconscious means unrestricted hedonism with eventual self-destruction, and if acceptance of an id in our unconscious negates all controls observed by the ego and superego, thus leading to self-destruction.

In considering cultural and socioeconomic patterns, the analyst should not forget that specific individual unconscious determinants are always present. Dr. Keiser contrasted the maturational differences between children from wealthy and poor families as they pass through the psychosexual phases of development. Anal and urethral fantasies emerge in both cases.

[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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