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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.

Foss, T. (2013). Freud 100 years ago. Totem and Taboo (1912–1913). Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 36(1):1-4.

(2013). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 36(1):1-4

Editorial Column

Freud 100 years ago. Totem and Taboo (1912–1913)

Torberg Foss

Sexuality and the way in which we relate to it, is undergoing many changes. In the editorial in the last issue of The Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, we commented on 50 Shades of Grey. A move towards more openness some would say. Others react less enthusiastically to the way sex surrounds us. Even at the grocery store, we stumble into stacks of this book. Food, sex: needs simply to be satisfied, the one as natural as the other.

However, an opposite tendency demands also to be noticed and is equally worth a commentary. For concurrent to this seemingly more open attitude towards sexuality, a process of desexualization presents itself. As the techniques of artificial fertilization are advanced, insemination, egg fertilization, and the latest, the use of mother surrogates, preferably from the Third World, the long-established link between sexuality and reproduction, appears more tenuous.

Recently a Norwegian doctor, who has had a leading position in this field of medicine, was interviewed in a newspaper. One of the most troublesome aspects of his work, he said, what had actually prompted him to leave his job, had been all the efforts being made to prevent these children from finding their fathers. He had in mind a period when semen donators were to be anonymous, before the law was changed in 2005.

The excluding of the father, and thereby the de-sexualization of reproduction, are two striking features of a development, about which psychoanalysts should have had their say. It is at least an appropriate occasion to mark the anniversary of Totem and Taboo (Freud, 1913).

[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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