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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.

Carroll, M.P. (1987). “Moses and Monotheism” Revisited—Freud's “Personal Myth”?. Am. Imago, 44(1):15-35.

(1987). American Imago, 44(1):15-35

“Moses and Monotheism” Revisited—Freud's “Personal Myth”?

Michael P. Carroll

Historians of religion have been critical of Freud's attempt to reconstruct early Israelite history in Moses and Monotheism (1964 [1939]). In particular, they have rejected his suggestion that the historical Moses was an Egyptian aristocrat who transmitted to the Jews an Egyptian religion (the monotheistic religion of the Pharaoh Akhnaten) and who was killed by the Jews after leading them out of Egypt.1 Psychoanalysts have been relatively tolerant of Freud's “Moses was an Egyptian” argument, but have rejected the psycho-Lamarckianism which permeates Moses and Monotheism. I know of no psychoanalytic investigator who endorses Freud's suggestion that the memory of the “Moses killing” was repressed and passed along to successive generations, and that the existence of this inherited “repressed memory” explains features of later Judaism and the Jewish character.

In his otherwise sympathetic reconsideration of Freud's “Moses was an Egyptian” argument, Ernest Jones (1957; 1958) mentions Freud's psycho-Lamarckian arguments only briefly, and then rejects them outright. Those commentators who do address Freud's psycho-Lamarckian arguments in detail usually do so only to demonstrate that these arguments are a projection of Freud's own oedipal struggles or a projection of his view of the history of the psychoanalytic movement (see Wallace, 1977; Ostow, 1977).

My position is that both the arguments in Moses and Monotheism and most of the responses to these arguments are fundamentally misdirected. If we accept the usual chronologies offered by Biblical scholars, then the Israelite Exodus from Egypt occurred sometime towards the end of the second millenium B.C.

[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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