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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.

Ravenal, C.M. (1995). Henri Matisse—Love as Art: A Psychobiographical Study. Ann. Psychoanal., 23:199-251.

(1995). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 23:199-251

IV Applied Psychoanalysis

Henri Matisse—Love as Art: A Psychobiographical Study

Carol M. Ravenal, Ph.D.

Henri Matisse revealed a cherished desire in Notes of a Painter from 1908, “What I dream of is an art of balance, purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue” (Flam, 1978p. 38). Armchairs or couches, however, were considerably more comfortable, or disturbing, when filled with a succession of stimulating women, such as Odalisque with Magnolias, 1923 (Fig. 1). Themes of female harem slaves reinforce the image of this painter as an untroubled, sexually liberated individual. Apparently spontaneous color-filled paintings of women appear to be the byproducts of buoyant hedonism. In fact, no work was more labored, no activity more obsessive, no women more ambivalently loved, no artist more intermittently depressed than in the case of this avowed arrtist of joy, Henri Matisse.

Paintings of women reflect a life of familial tension, illicit passion, and/or disengagement. Even with stimulating young women, desire for fusion through visual scrutiny and sexual union was eventually followed by emotional separation as he turned to his own more gratifying creative transformations. Seductive delight of observing and experiencing tactility in flesh was ultimately aestheticized and transformed into the more reliable delight of engaging in tactility of paint.

[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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