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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.

Grundy, D. (1999). A Review of The Beast in the Nursery: Adam Phillips. New York: Pantheon Books, 1998. xxii + 165 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 35(1):153-158.

(1999). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 35(1):153-158

The Sins of Development: Adam's Gospel

A Review of The Beast in the Nursery: Adam Phillips. New York: Pantheon Books, 1998. xxii + 165 pp.

Review by:
Dominick Grundy, Ph.D.

PROBABLY NO ONE who writes on psychoanalysis today in English has as much subtlety and sheer ardor for writing as Adam Phillips. In his hands, psychoanalytic discourse has so much become the literary essay that when he reads a paper or talks to a professional audience, someone is always heard to mumble, “Yes, but does he believe that? If so, how can he practice?” The problem of belief, of what one holds to and prizes apart from the words framing that belief, apart from the context that formed that belief, is rather tricky today. Postmodernism does not give much credence to belief, or at least, not in the way we used to believe certain truths to be self-evident. Postmodernism calls us believing animals, which is tantamount to saying that where we're concerned, everything we might be inclined to live and die for is a story, a plot. There is no reason for this fiction not to include psychoanalysis, although writers like Phillips use psychoanalysis to explain that this is the way we are. As he said in an earlier book (1993), “The psychoanalytic question becomes not, Is that true? but What in your personal history disposes you to believe that? And that, of course, could be psychoanalytic theory” (p. 112). To quote Phillips, rounding the home stretch of his latest book, “There is no unconscious that one can get closer to; there are just ways of talking that make us feel more or less hopeful” (p. 151).

Reducing The Beast in the Nursery to a straightforward narrative line would require a degree of brutal imposition. The book is a kind of brief filed on behalf of the child—a stereotype child perhaps—against what might broadly be called the developmental trend in psychology and the psychologizing trend in culture. “You must lose interest in order to find it; this is the gospel of development.

[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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