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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.

Corbett, K. (2011). Gender Regulation. Psychoanal Q., 80(2):441-459.

(2011). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 80(2):441-459

Gender Regulation

Ken Corbett

In returning to Lawrence S. Kubie's “The Drive to Become Both Sexes” (1974), a contemporary reader immediately confronts a title that speaks the different ways we thought about the sexes then, and the ways in which we think about gender now. At the gate, one is compelled to consider the problematic twentieth-century psychoanalytic debate regarding the role of a driven, sexed body versus a relationally constituted body-mind.

Kubie (1896-1973) worked on “The Drive to Become Both Sexes” for twenty years, beginning in 1954, and presented the paper along the way to various psychoanalytic societies and at a variety of meetings. The paper was published posthumously in 1974. Kubie appears, though, to have been aware of the paper's impending publication, and also seems to have been engaged in some prepublication editing.

This long-pondered paper met print right at the start of second-wave psychoanalytic gender theory, as it was ignited by what was then the heyday of second-wave feminism. The sexed body as equivalent to gender was decidedly under question. Normative presumptions about femininity, in particular, were the source of lively debate. Gender was being retheorized as social as well as embodied and psychological. An epistemological shift was under way, one that gathered force as we turned into the final quarter of our first psychoanalytic century.


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