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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.

Jaffe, D.S. (1983). On Words and Music: A Personal Commentary. Psychoanal Q., 52:590-593.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:590-593

On Words and Music: A Personal Commentary

Daniel S. Jaffe, M.D.

Music has always been very important in my inner life, as it no doubt has been for many people in one way or another. I had always asumed that for me it has been part of an individual heritage, transmitted through my father, who was an avid listener to programs of classical music in the days when radio broadcasts were the chief means of public dissemination. This was augmented for me by music lessons, first on the violin, then the piano, but never seriously pursued; also by some attendance at concerts and opera during my early student years.

It was not until well along into middle age, and long after my personal psychoanalysis, that a particular experience threw unexpected light on a special factor that was undoubtedly of central importance among the many determinants contributing to my particular sensitivity to and mode of utilization of music. This last point requires further elaboration.

In moments of reverie or introspection, my random flow of thoughts would often be accompanied by some musical theme. I had never paid much attention to potential meanings until analytic training revealed the many possibilities for insight that could become available through the associative process. Clearly, one's own affective experience can resonate with what the composer must have been feeling when he conceived of and executed the musical theme, with or without the accompanying lyrics. The latter may serve to program the mood, from the sadness of "None But the Lonely Heart" to the exuberance of "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!" It is only natural, and probably universal, to find one's own mood being expressed or reinforced by a musical accompaniment.


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