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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.

Zilboorg, G. (1945). TENDENCIAS PRIMITIVAS: EN LA JUSTICIA CIVILIZADA. Rev. psicoanál., 2(4):648-654.

(1945). Revista de Psicoanálisis, 2(4):648-654

TENDENCIAS PRIMITIVAS: EN LA JUSTICIA CIVILIZADA

Gregory Zilboorg

Es dudoso que en la actualidad existan muchas personas que defiendan la institución de la pena de muerte con cierto grado de convicción o firmeza. Los que aceptan el castigo capital, más que proponentes son adherentes pasivos del régimen imperante: tienen más terror a abolirlo que disposición a defenderlo. Por lo general, frente a los argumentos que se formulan en contra de la pena de muerte les oímos esta débil réplica: “Si abolimos la pena de muerte, ¿qué ponemos en su lugar?” Pero los que plantean esta pregunta retórica no se dan cuenta de que existen ciertas cosas que pueden suprimirse sin que sea necesario reemplazarlas por otras. Nadie se pregunta qué podría sustituir a la malaria, a la fiebre amarilla o a la fiebre tifoidea que todos desean eliminar. Sin embargo, en algunas mentalidades surge una duda, es como si pensaran que en el caso de la fiebre amarilla no se debe buscar un sustituto porque se trata de una enfermedad y por lo tanto tiene que ser eliminada totalmente. Además, podrían agregar que la pena de muerte es un castigo, el supremo castigo. Estas personas, siendo adherentes pasivos del mantenimiento de esta pena, son incapaces de concebir los beneficios que resultarían de la abolición de algo supremo y por consiguiente en cierta forma absoluto y perfecto y su sustitución por algo menos supremo y por tanto menos perfecto.

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