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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.

Fried, Y. Holim, K. (1975). Comments and Criticisms. Contemp. Psychoanal., 11:251-254.

(1975). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 11:251-254

Comments and Criticisms

Yehuda Fried, M.D. and Kupat Holim

To the Editors:

Over the past twenty years, Jacques Lacan has developed a special approach to psychoanalysis which has come to be known as Lacanian theory. Lacan considers himself only a psychoanalyst. Nevertheless, I believe his contributions to psychiatry, to philosophy generally, and particularly to the philosophy of science, are highly significant. His epistemology is particularly well-known.

Three important considerations emerge from his work. First, the basic limits of psychoanalysis. We know that every science is limited by an established frame of reference. The moment changes occur altering the limits of the basic frame of reference of a particular science, we enter new unknown areas. Since these areas fall outside the basic limits, a different scientific field is entered. For example, while the findings of physics are constantly changing, as long as the basic object retains its original character, we still find ourselves within the boundaries of physics. However, the moment the basic object changes its character, we find ourselves in a new field, in this instance, chemistry.

With regard to psychoanalysis, Lacan states that what the patient says about X is important since it falls within the basic limits or frame of reference of psychoanalysis. This implies that whatever falls outside the limits of what the patient says about X is not important to the psychoanalyst. Lacan then asks, to what does this X—talked about by the patient—refer? A psychoanalyst has no implements with which to examine this X about which the patient talks. All that is available to the psychoanalyst is that which is related by the patient.

[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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