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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.

Esman, A.H. (1983). Blake and Freud: By Diana Hume George. New York: Cornell University Press, 1980. 253 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 52:129-132.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:129-132

Blake and Freud: By Diana Hume George. New York: Cornell University Press, 1980. 253 pp.

Review by:
Aaron H. Esman

William Blake was one of a rare breed of men, an artist who created major works in two distinct media. Not unaware of his relative uniqueness, he set as his ego ideal the figure of Michelangelo. Although Blake cannot be said to have attained to that level in his graphic output, he still produced work of unusual and haunting beauty, and his literary efforts have achieved a fame and influence that probably transcend those of his idol's poetry. He was in many ways the prototypic romantic artist—inspired, suffering, perhaps mad, but ultimately triumphant.

Much of the appeal of Blake's poems and prophecies derives from their mystical character. Particularly in the later work, Blake created out of his visionary experiences a race of quasi-deities inhabiting a mythic world, engaged in a complex and often obscure personalized enactment of the Creation and of the Birth and Fall of Man (to him one and the same). His literary models and adversaries included John Milton and Dante, whose respective accounts of Paradise Lost and of Hell he retold and revised both in words and pictures. The obscurity, ambiguity, and at times outright confusion of Blake's language and imagery make them fair game for interpretation, and, since his rediscovery by the pre-Raphaelites, a virtual industry of Blake scholarship has arisen.

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