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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.

Sjödin, C. (1999). Subjectivity and aggression — a reflection on the death instincts. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 22(1):19-32.

(1999). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 22(1):19-32

Subjectivity and aggression — a reflection on the death instincts

Christer Sjödin

Freud's investigation of that which lies beyond the pleasure principle is, among other things, an attempt to understand how thoughts on matter, biology, psychology and mythology become linked, despite the fact that each of these systems are independent and self-sufficient, each one working according to its own logic. Free energy, that we may liken to a kind of noise, is bound and organized in a process where subjective meaning is created. During this process, a meaningful connection between inner and outer reality is established. However, subjectivity also creates problems, since the individual needs to find his or her own self-realization, his or her own path towards the grave. Self-realization contains an aggressive potential, which – reminiscent of the workings of the immune system – may be aimed at everything that is not-self; at the unfamiliar or that which causes discomfort; at that which blocks the path towards the individual's mastery of the world.

[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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