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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.

Wilson, M. (2017). The Fragility of the Frame. Psychoanal. Dial., 27(3):361-362.

(2017). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 27(3):361-362

The Fragility of the Frame

Mitchell Wilson, M.D.

The fragility of the psychoanalytic setup––what we now call the frame––becomes a felt fact whenever there is significant disruption. Imagine your office is flooded because of a broken pipe or corroded water heater. To put things back together such that your office looks like your office again first entails taking it all apart, from the carpet to the baseboards, and

moving various pieces of furniture, including the analytic couch, to a safe perch. You realize, with a shocking immediacy, that your workspace, that place where you lay it on the line every day, is constructed, highly fabricated, because it can so easily be de-constructed, even destroyed.

The psychoanalytic frame, as we know, entails more than the physical space in which we work. It involves the psychic space through which we work such that analysis has a chance to happen between our patients and us. The frame is something we both facilitate and inhabit, and that we invest with specific values, such as care and responsibility for the other. For me, one essential feature of the frame is that it contains an analytic relationship that is fundamentally asymmetric. As Laplanche rightly insisted upon, the analytic situation recapitulates the primary anthropological situation of early infancy. Transference, desire, and fantasy all follow from this recapitulation. And because of the vectors of force that get mobilized in analysis, the analyst has a deeply ethical responsibility to care for the other, namely, the patient as a person, and the “other,” the unconscious, in and between us.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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