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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.

Gedo, J.E. (1994). The Inner World of Paul Gauguin. Ann. Psychoanal., 22:61-109.

(1994). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 22:61-109

The Inner World of Paul Gauguin

John E. Gedo

The quartet of interrelated essays that follows is intended to describe the psychological vicissitudes of Paul Gauguin in the last several years of his life, when the loss of his favorite daughter and a life-threatening illness undermined the adaptation that had characterized him throughout his adulthood. In a previous effort to examine the wellsprings of Gauguin's creativity (Gedo, 1983, pp. 129–160), I asserted that, although Gauguin suffered from a number of maladaptive characterological traits, he succeeded in safeguarding his creativity, albeit at the cost of occasional ruthless or masochistic enactments. I also hypothesized that his ruthlessness permitted Gauguin to devise his greatest contribution to painting, the arbitrary use of color to express his conception of ideal form; per contra, the artist also succeeded in keeping his most pressing psychological problems out of the narrative content of his paintings.

In the present essay I attempt to use the subject matter of numerous works of Gauguin, in all media including literature, as associative material that helps to illuminate his biography. Although rendering the narrative content of visual materials into discursive language is a species of interpretation, I nowhere intend to offer explications art that pretend to completeness—the entire thrust of this effort is in the opposite direction, to increase our understanding of Gauguin's inner life. I am convinced that only such insight will eventually enable our successors to decipher the obscure psychological meanings of the artist's immense oeuvre.

[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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