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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.

Fayek, A. (2007). The Impasse Between the Islamists and the West: Dreaming the Same Nightmare. Ann. Psychoanal., 35:273-286.

(2007). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 35:273-286

The Impasse Between the Islamists and the West: Dreaming the Same Nightmare

Ahmed Fayek, Ph.D.

Islamists are entangled in a complex web of negative relationships with the Western world. They vehemently deny being terrorists but fail to convince their adversaries that they fight for legitimate causes. The Western world is in the same quandary. They deny being colonialists but fail to convince Muslims that they advocate freedom and democracy. It is an impasse that raises questions, which psychoanalysts are good at answering.

As psychoanalysts, we distinguish between what is manifest and its latent content. We work on uncovering the latent by examining the internal inconsistencies of the manifested, meaning that we expose a gap that separates the false from the true. In interpreting dreams, we try to reveal the “work” of dream-work in disguising the latent content. We could do the same thing with the impasse between Islamists and the Western world.

This impasse raises three questions: Are Islamists (militant organizations) truly religious movements, as they claim, or is there a hidden content to that manifest? If there is a hidden content, how could we identify it? If we identify it, how could we be sure that we got it right? The same approach applies to investigating the claims of the Western world of advocating democracy in the Islamic world.

Sometimes we encounter what looks like a conflict between two uncompromising identities in interpersonal relationships but discover later that it was for consolidating shaky and poorly defined identities. The conflict between Islamists and the West has features of a search for consolidating shaky and poorly defined identities. Islamists want to emphasize their Islamic identity over their Arabic one, and the West wants to emphasize the civility of its identity over a purely cultural one.

[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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