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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.

Hartman, J.J. (1993). The Psychoanalytic Study of Society. XV, 1990: Culture and Human Nature. Melford E. Spiro. Pp. 17-44.. Psychoanal Q., 62:691.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Psychoanalytic Study of Society. XV, 1990: Culture and Human Nature. Melford E. Spiro. Pp. 17-44.

(1993). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 62:691

The Psychoanalytic Study of Society. XV, 1990: Culture and Human Nature. Melford E. Spiro. Pp. 17-44.

John J. Hartman

Melford E. Spiro, the psychoanalytic anthropologist to whom this volume is dedicated, describes his own intellectual development in exploring the relationship between culture and human nature. Spiro has done fieldwork in the Ojibwa, Ifaluk, Israeli kibbutz, and Burmese societies. From this work he has concluded, in contrast to previous anthropological theorizing, that culture is not the exclusive determinant of personality and that personality is not exclusively the internalization of culture. He argues that the Freudian structural model offers a more complex view of personality as independent of behavior and culture. He also argues that this conceptualization of aspects of personality in conflict with culture offers a fuller explanation of observable facts. He uses his research on aggression to document these assertions about a pancultural human nature.

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Article Citation

Hartman, J.J. (1993). The Psychoanalytic Study of Society. XV, 1990. Psychoanal. Q., 62:691

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