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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.

Rubenstein, B. (1955). The Meaning of the Cinderella Story in the Development of a Little Girl. Am. Imago, 12(2):197-205.

(1955). American Imago, 12(2):197-205

The Meaning of the Cinderella Story in the Development of a Little Girl

Ben Rubenstein

Fairy tales and myths have attracted scientific interest since Freud drew attention to their close relationship to the world of dreams, hysteria, and psychosis. Especially masterful was his analysis of the role of the fairy tale in the neurosis of the “Wolf Man”. () Many of the early psychoanalytic investigators specifically noted the rich symbolism and the character of wishfulfillment in the fairy tale. We recall that psychoanalysis was under bitter attack at this time and the early defenders turned to fairy tales and myths with the enthusiasms of miners uncovering a rich vein of gold. Their assay of the new raw material through the device of dream analysis uncovered the true nature of the mechanisms of both symbolism and wish in fairy tales.

The universal and perpetual attraction of fairy tales, as with myths and legends, is based upon the ego-syntonic character of the libidinal aspirations. Franz Ricklin (), in a classical monograph written in 1915, reviewed large groups of fairy tales from various countries and marked their universal psyehosexual themes. He drew attention particularly to the wishful character of these themes with respect to the oedipal strivings of children. Ricklin also noted two additional themes in the tales he examined: () the almost inevitable presence of the cruel stepmother, and () the sexual pursuit of the daughter by the father.

[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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