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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.

Farhi, N. (2008). In the Beginning There was Darkness: Images Across the Void. Contemp. Psychoanal., 44(1):2-17.

(2008). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 44(1):2-17

In the Beginning There was Darkness: Images Across the Void

Nina Farhi

The author seeks to uncover a source for the emergence of an intersubjective relationship from work undertaken with a psychotic young woman, brilliant in solipsistic verbalizations and searing imagery, yet imprisoned in nearpsychic annihilation. The analyst's unremitting dread of her patient contained the seed of their mutual transformation. Their passage across the void drove selfstates within us both into dark regions from where, through their mutual absorption into the mysteries of the kabbalah, hope germinated. The patient's baseless universe, perverted and distorted by her parents' chronic mental illnesses allowed no mutuality. Beyond her immaculate attendance over 10 years, the analysis chronicled a malignant drive to destroy any possibility of a life organically growing toward an interpersonal and intrapsychic union. The analyst's predicament and the patient's unconscious drive toward health formed the dual force fields that uncovered roots, within both of them, of what the analyst names “the filaments of evil.” The analyst struggled, all the while unknowingly, to find a terrain where aesthetic and moral reciprocity could come into being.

[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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