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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.

Parsons, W.B. (2007). Psychoanalytic Spirituality. Ann. Psychoanal., 35:83-96.

(2007). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 35:83-96

Psychoanalytic Spirituality

William B. Parsons, Ph.D.

One can only imagine what the term psychoanalytic spirituality suggests to a true Freudian. As is well known, Freud's view of religion was markedly pejorative. Even his oft-quoted remark in a letter to Swiss Protestant pastor Oskar Pfister that psychoanalysis could be viewed as a “secular cure of souls” (Freud and Pfister, 1963, p. 126) renders psychoanalysis at best a humanistic discipline and not a religion. From this perspective any hint of psychoanalysis involving a spiritual dimension must be placed quite firmly in the camp of Jung.

Then again, one does not want to conflate all psychoanalysis with Freud. Moreover, it should not be assumed that there exits any self-evident understanding of the term religion. The Latin religio initially was used to denote a power greater than the human or the feeling invoked by the encounter with said power. Only gradually did it come to designate ritual acts, myths, belief systems, inner piety, and the various accoutrements so familiar today (Wulff, 1997). In academia the term religion is seen as fraught with difficulties, as is evidenced by substantial controversies and debates over its use. Although it is understood to be a necessary, even functional term, notable figures have uncovered the term's hidden assumptions, fought for its qualification, offered substitutions, and even called for its dismissal (Smith, 1963). At any rate, we know where Freud stood on the matter. For him the only deserving definition was the common understanding of religion, an understanding that was Western, that assumed institutionalized patriarchal forms of sociocultural power, and whose normative expression was centered in the monotheistic “mighty personality” of an exalted Father–God.

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