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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.

Meissner, W.W. (2000). Poor Folk: Some Characters Of Dostoevsky. Psychoanal. Rev., 87(6):757-798.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Review, 87(6):757-798

Poor Folk: Some Characters Of Dostoevsky

W. W. Meissner, Ph.D., S.J.

In an era in which so much has been made of the role of narrative in psychoanalytic understanding and praxis, it is only a small step to apply analytic ideas to literature. Spence's (1982) discussion of the place of narrative truth as opposed to historical truth, that is, the story the patient tells versus the story of the patient's actual lived experience, and the further elaboration of the notion of narrative discourse by Schafer (1992) have brought the lineaments of the story and its telling into clearer focus as contributing aspects of the psychoanalytic dialogue.

Along similar lines, Baudry's (1984, 1990, 1991, 1992) extension of the notion of character and its development in both literary and psychoanalytic contexts lends support to a continuing analytic interest in the development of literary character. The enterprise is not entirely foreign to analytic interests, insofar as the parallels between the study of the patient's character in analysis and the analysis of literary character provide a rich field for analytic study (Meissner, 1973). This perspective adds a refinement to the narrative purview by emphasizing character in addition to plot. In analysis, the relation between plot and character is by no means simple or direct, but an abiding analytic concern remains the issue of how much the storyline determines character and how much the patient's character determines the storyline. The same issues come into focus in the analytic study of literary character (Baudry, 1990; Meissner, 1973).

Analysis of Literary Character

Freud's research into the psychology of literary character and into the literary process itself had a profound influence on the evolution of psychoanalysis.

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