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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.

Corbett, K. (2001). Faggot = Loser. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 2(1):3-28.

(2001). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 2(1):3-28

Faggot = Loser

Ken Corbett, Ph.D.

This essay investigates the projectile force and projective work0 of the designation faggot by examining a clinical moment during which a child patient called me a “faggot.” Particular attention is paid to the defensive function that “faggot” played in this boy's effort to disavow smallness and losing. I use his specific dilemma to consider the more general boyhood quest to be big and winning. Focusing on the ways in which boys defend against the anxiety generated by the big—small divide, I argue for the clinical engagement of these defenses, including aggressive protest, bravado, and phallic narcissistic preoccupation. I propose engaging boys in the difficult process of thirdness as a psychic venue that offers a context of growth within which to cathect boys' anxiety and aggression. Such cathexis stands in contrast to the manner in which boys' narcissistic preoccupations and aggression are simultaneously prized and neglected through the “boys will be boys” approach to masculinity. Boys' aggression, which so often conceals their anxiety about losing, is neither adequately contained nor engaged. They are left to adopt a brittle bravado and to relate through control and domination. One routine form of bravado and domination is the contemptuous use of the word faggot. I conclude with some speculative thoughts about how the anxiety of loss that is initially managed through the diffuse projection of “faggot” might develop into a more specific form of hatred: homophobia.

[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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