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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.

Malater, E. (2014). Stay, Illusion: The Hamlet Doctrine. By Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster. New York: Pantheon, 2013, 269 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 101(3):454-457.

(2014). Psychoanalytic Review, 101(3):454-457

Stay, Illusion: The Hamlet Doctrine. By Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster. New York: Pantheon, 2013, 269 pp.

Review by:
Evan Malater, LCSW

Stay, Illusion, a series of essays on Hamlet by psychoanalyst Jamieson Webster and her husband, the philosopher Simon Critchley, is everything that most writing on psychoanalysis applied to literature is not, which is to say it is fascinating, surprising, provocative, and disorienting. While familiarity with Hamlet will certainly add to the pleasure, it would be a shame if its audience were limited to Shakespeare aficionados. In fact, the authors take pains to point out that they are not Hamlet specialists. All the better. As Greil Marcus (2001) wrote about finding the “Old Weird America” in song, Webster and Critchley bring us the Old Weird Hamlet, deftly rescuing the play from death by reverence through a literary approach that is as weird as the text they uncover.

In a recent reading at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Webster commented on the fact that by far, the most common question they have received is “How did you write the book together?” She said that in her opinion this question and, by implication, the question of the book, is about sexual relationship. As a Lacanian analyst, Webster must know that this notion can only lead us by association to the Lacanian formula that states, “There is no sexual relationship.” But if there is no sexual relationship, then this book and the relationship that produced it is a no thing—a fitting thought for authors whose doctrine of Hamlet is itself guided and structured by an analysis of the “nothing” at the heart of the play, an analysis that through fits and starts finds its way to the nothing at the heart of love.

At first glance, the notion that Hamlet is “a play about nothing,” might raise concern that we are in for a hookup between Lacan and Seinfield, a fashionable romance of negativity.

[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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