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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.

Spitz, E.H. (1998). Necessary Illusion: Art as Witness. By Gilbert J. Rose, M.D. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1996. 148 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 67(3):525-528.

(1998). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 67(3):525-528

Necessary Illusion: Art as Witness. By Gilbert J. Rose, M.D. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1996. 148 pp.

Review by:
Ellen Handler Spitz

Gilbert Rose can be no stranger to readers within the psychoanalytic world who have had an abiding interest in the overlapping spheres of psychoanalysis and art (he has been a contributor for over thirty years). In this small book, he begins by reviewing and summarizing his earlier work and then goes on to add a dimension that is of particular interest to this reviewer. I should like to focus my comments on the notion of art as witness, which Rose introduces in a series of delightful anecdotes at the beginning of this book and to which he returns in his efforts to theorize a psychoanalytic take on aesthetic response. The idea of “witnessing” as well as that of rhythm as a structuring feature of works of art are not unrelated notions. The first is quite challenging, although, as I will argue, incomplete in the way Rose has formulated it in these pages, and the second is an interesting reworking of ideas he had developed previously in The Power of Form (1980) and Trauma and Mastery in Life and Art (1987).

Rose claims here that “the completed work of art may be used as an ambient context for creating an illusion of a witnessing presence to one's own emotions” (p. 114). This seems at first blush a curious reversal of the usual way of thinking about art, namely, that it is we, the spectators, who are witnesses to the artist's project, the work of art. Rose's point, however, if I understand him correctly, is that in experiencing works of art with depth and emotional resonance, we may feel affirmed in our sense of self (hence, witnessed by them) and at the same time opened (by their witnessing) to new ways of experiencing our selves. Rose would not, however, want to go as far with this general notion as Roland Barthes who claims, “The text is a fetish object, and this fetish desires me.

[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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