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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.

Weiss, R.W. (1992). Dirty Words: Psychoanalytic Insights: By Ariel C. Arango, M.D. Northvale, NJ/London: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1989. 232 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 61:503-504.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61:503-504

Dirty Words: Psychoanalytic Insights: By Ariel C. Arango, M.D. Northvale, NJ/London: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1989. 232 pp.

Review by:
Richard W. Weiss

The focus of this relatively unsophisticated book is that "dirty" or obscene words are taboo because they evoke the sensual, incestuous, and bodily pleasures of childhood. Arango asserts that it is the moral repugnance regarding those pleasures that leads to repression and hence to neurosis. That same repugnance is felt toward the obscene words that have the power to evoke visual imagery, memories, and affects related to childhood wishes. With that in mind, Arango advocates the public acceptance of obscene words as an ally to a greater acceptance of culturally warded-off incestuous wishes. He further notes that a patient's use of obscene words to describe excretory and sexual functioning is an indispensable part of every analysis.

The book is divided into chapters each of which is on the "dirty" word for: genitals, intercourse, masturbation, excretory functions, etc. In each chapter, the author documents the import of the denied pleasures, with references to art, literature, and history. The chapter on feces and urine, for example, addresses the coprophagic practices of various religious sects, the powers ascribed to the diapers of the Christ child, and the anal erotism depicted by the Marquis de Sade. The author's goal is to underscore how our present-day "adult" aversion to anality is cultural and moral—not natural. (There is also a general implication that earlier civilizations, especially pre-Judeo-Christian antiquity, were, rightly, more tolerant of the sensual pleasures of childhood.)

The chapter, "The Voluptuous Mother," is a discussion of the curse, "son of a whore."

[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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