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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.

Ahlskog, G. (2017). Freud: In His Time and Ours. By √Člisabeth Roudinesco. Translated By Catherine Porter. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2016, 580 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 104(3):351-361.

(2017). Psychoanalytic Review, 104(3):351-361


Freud: In His Time and Ours. By Élisabeth Roudinesco. Translated By Catherine Porter. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2016, 580 pp.

Review by:
Gary Ahlskog, Ph.D.

Do we need another Freud biography? The answers are Yes, and Maybe. Élisabeth Roudinesco, Head of Research in History at the University of Paris Diderot, has given us a magnum opus that can be credited with at least six reasons why the answer is Yes. Just as educated voters need to know American history, just as emancipated patients must know their family history, so psychoanalysts need to be freed of a century of managed news concerning their own profession. While this book is manifestly about Freud, it is also a history of psychoanalysis that does not shirk from revealing where sand compromises its foundation. A short list of Roudinesco's contributions follows.

1.   Ernest Jones's portrait of Freud as virtually self-engendered, the myth of the “great man,” simply does not stand up to scrutiny (p. 62). Eissler made matters worse by trying to seal Freud's archives, a “disastrous” move that Roudinesco is writing to correct (p. 422). The myth that Freud possessed the gift of a unique scientific clarity must give way to a Freud who was not only energetic and dogmatic, but also ambivalent, an easy victim of rumor (p. 285), and by the end of his life doubtful of the effectiveness of treatment (p. 380).

2.   On the other side of this coin, Roudinesco is writing to turn back the tide of modern “Freud bashers” (p. 426), authors who have gotten away with ungrounded speculations, an example of which would be Jeffrey Masson's argument that Freud disavowed his Seduction Theory out of “cowardice” (p. 424), a topic so complex that it is hardly clarified by sensationalism or mudslinging.

3.   While Freud made masterful contributions to new understandings of history and culture, he was himself a product of that history and culture. The turn of the twentieth century witnessed a challenge to the traditional paternalistic order by introducing an expanded femininity purported to be dangerous.

[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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