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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.

Kächele, H. Thomä, H. (2009). Archiving Psychoanalysis. Rom. J. Psychoanal., 2:143-153.

(2009). Romanian Journal of Psychoanalysis, 2:143-153

Recherche en Psychanalyse

Archiving Psychoanalysis

Horst Kächele and Helmut Thomä

Step 1: The Discovery of a Narrative Science

Freud's resignative statement the the „Studies on Hysteria(1895d) that his case reports lack the stern character of true scientific reports but read more like novellas could be made responsible for an unnecessary continental divide between science and hermeneutics.

Thus psychoanalysis became a field based on narration — hearsay evidence retreating to narrative truth (Forrester 1980; Spence 1982). To highlight the importance of this methodological decision, imagine a science of musicology with musicians sharing their most personal experiences by writing case histories, or by letting consumers tell their emotional involvements after a piano concerto. What is wrong about such an approach? It could well be that one could build a science of musical experience by collecting a large sample of these reported subjective testimonies. The German professors Grimm from Göttingen systematically started out to collect orally transmitted fairy tales. Today we have a well developed field of fairy tale research with highly sophisticated methods to analyze the large collections available all over the world (Propp 1928).

One might well take as an example S. Freud's case report on the Ratman (1909d) and look up Zetzel's ‘Additional notes’ from 1966:

‘It was my intention when I first undertook this study to base my discussion primarily on the 1909 report published in Freud's Collected papers. Fortunately, however, I decided to reread the case history in the Standard Edition.

[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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