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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.

Bromberg, P.M. (1999). Playing with Boundaries. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(1):54-66.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(1):54-66

Playing with Boundaries

Philip M. Bromberg, Ph.D.

IF ONE VIEWS THE NORMAL PROCESS of human personality functioning as a shifting configuration of multiple self-states (what Freud calls “part-egos”), a correspondence emerges between the psychodynamics of two seemingly distinct relationships, reader-author and patient-analyst, each involving an ongoing dialectic between the multiple realities of both people at the interface of language and selfhood. Eva Hoffman, in her 1989 book with the wonderful title Lost in Translation, writes:

I love words insofar as they correspond to the world, insofar as they give it to me in heightened form. The more words I have, the more distinct, precise my perceptions become—and such lucidity is a form of joy. Sometimes, when I find a new expression, I roll it on the tongue, as if shaping it in my mouth gave birth to a new shape in the world. Nothing fully exists until it is articulated. “She grimaced ironically,” someone says, and an ironic grimace is now delineated in my mind with a sharpness it never had before. I've grasped a new piece of experience; it is mine. [pp. 28-29]

When it comes to words about one's “self,” however—and this is a big however—especially when the words are coming out of the mouth of one's analyst, “loving” them is a somewhat more complicated piece of business. It's not as simple as taking them in, rolling them on your tongue, and grasping a new piece of self-experience. The feeling “it is mine” that Hoffman so poignantly describes doesn't translate that neatly into “it is me.

[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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