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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.

Gale, R.L. (1954). Freudian Imagery in James's Fiction. Am. Imago, 11(2):181-190.

(1954). American Imago, 11(2):181-190

Freudian Imagery in James's Fiction

Robert L. Gale

The similes and metaphors from the fiction of Henry James may be divided into several major categories, including those of water, flower, animal, and war. (1) Each of these groups contains elements capable of being interpreted, in terms of Freudian theory, as sexually symbolic. Thus, followers of Freud would argue that water references often relate to the amniotic fluid and that swimmers are symbols of the male, ships the female. Flowers may represent the male or the female, depending upon the part stressed, but the gardens producing them or inviting one to linger are unquestionably female symbols. Some animals and their actions may be emblems of one sex or the other. And war involves gaping wounds caused by flourished knives and pistols, all of which are genital symbols. (2) In addition, other important categories into which James's images may be divided—religion and art, to name only two—contain figures which readers of Freud regard themselves as especially qualified to elucidate. However, little can be accomplished by showing again, what many individuals began to accept at least as early as the time of Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, (3) that most of the heterogeneous mass of things in this world may be regarded as sexual symbols. On the other hand, much may be gained by analyzing the almost two hundred images in James's fiction used to describe men and women, and their relationships, when not only the terms but also the contexts appear sexual or at any rate suggestive.

Images containing male symbols (4) are rather rare in the fiction. Frequently they concern keys and bolts, as in a simple, general figure from the early short story “Adina.” While wondering how Sam Scrope can tolerate Adina Waddington's boisterous mother, the narrator suddenly understands.

[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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