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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.

Kirkpatrick, M. (1993). Being Homosexual: Gay Men and their Development: By Richard A. Isay. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1989, 159 pp., $14.95.. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 41:240-243.

(1993). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 41:240-243

Being Homosexual: Gay Men and their Development: By Richard A. Isay. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1989, 159 pp., $14.95.

Review by:
Martha Kirkpatrick, M.D.

Freud's discovery of childhood sexuality and its importance in the formation of personality and psychopathology has astounded and stimulated students of human behavior for close to a century. Yet we have not illuminated the source of erotic desire, the determinants of sexual object choice, the variations in sexual fantasy, sexual intensity, or sexual role much beyond Freud's original formulations. In some ways we have lost ground. By assuming we knew the answers, we have disrupted the unbiased ambiance necessary for learning by neutral observation.

Isay's thoughtful, lucid, and clinically informed account of his experiences in treating homosexual men is a welcome guide to get us back on track. There is very little theory, no arcane language, no polemic in his book. This makes it of value to the interested layman as well as to the experienced clinician.

The experiential is especially salient for clinicians who frequently are versed in psychoanalytic theories of male homosexuality, but have very limited opportunity to confirm or modify the theories from their clinical observations. Isay uses his wealth of experience to reappraise those theories. He reminds us of Freud's statement that psychological factors seemed unlikely to account for homosexual orientation without some biologically based compliance. Further, Isay presents his conviction that sexual orientation, homosexual, heterosexual, and very rarely bisexual, is constitutionally set and "immutable from birth" (p. 21). He has arrived at this conclusion from his clinical observations.

[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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