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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.

J., E. (1943). Psychology: The Myth of the Mind. By Frank Kenyon. (Thinker's Library, No. 85.) (Watts & Co., London, 1941. Pp. ix + 115. Price, 1 s. 3 d.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 24:84.

(1943). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 24:84

Psychology: The Myth of the Mind. By Frank Kenyon. (Thinker's Library, No. 85.) (Watts & Co., London, 1941. Pp. ix + 115. Price, 1 s. 3 d.)

Review by:
E. J.

The author of this book has a bee in his bonnet. It is in itself a very good bee, but for some personal reason its buzzing seems to have driven him distracted. He rightly points out that to postulate a distinct entity called the 'mind' or 'soul' is in no way necessary, and that in any event it does not afford an explanation of the phenomena called 'mental processes': further that we possess no authentic evidence of the occurrence of such phenomena except in association with bodily processes. I imagine that most psychologists would assent to these statements, as the present reviewer certainly does. At this point, however, the author takes a wide jump. The idea of a mind is to him as much a red rag as that of matter was to Berkeley, and he leaps to the conclusion that anyone whosoever studying mental processes must be possessed of what he terms the greatest and least excusable superstition of all time, namely, the delusion that the entity 'mind' has an independent existence. Carried away by this curious misapprehension he fulminates with the most extravagant abuse against every variety of psychologist, and, of course, particularly against 'the crowning absurdity of psycho-analysis'.

The author's own thesis could be stated in a few sentences; the rest of the book is nothing but unintelligent abuse. One is surprised at its being issued by a reputable publisher.

[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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