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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.

Rycroft, C.F. (1952). The Psychoanalytic Quarterly 20, 1951; No. 2: Bernice Engle and Thomas M. French. 'Some Psychodynamic Reflections upon the Life and Writings of Solon.'. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 33:505.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Psychoanalytic Quarterly 20, 1951; No. 2: Bernice Engle and Thomas M. French. 'Some Psychodynamic Reflections upon the Life and Writings of Solon.'

(1952). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 33:505

The Psychoanalytic Quarterly 20, 1951; No. 2: Bernice Engle and Thomas M. French. 'Some Psychodynamic Reflections upon the Life and Writings of Solon.'

Charles F. Rycroft

The life and writings of Solon are discussed from the point of view of the light they can throw on some psychodynamic problems of democracy.

Solon was appointed archon of Attica at the beginning of the sixth century B.C. with extraordinary powers to reconstruct the machinery of the Athenian government which had broken down as a result of the disintegrating effect of commercial development on a previously feudal society. What had once been a benevolent aristocracy had become an oligarchy of limitless greed. In their discussion of his reforms, which included the abolition of slavery and extension of civic rights, the authors stress the high value Solon attached to self-restraint as a counterbalance to the lust for power and wealth. This is exemplified both in his writings and in his refusal to seize arbitrary power for himself and become a tyrant. If a democracy is to work its members must not only be capable of resisting despotic usurpation of power; they must also be willing to renounce their own desire for power. Solon is one of the earliest examples of such self-restraint.

The fact that Solon had to defend himself against charges of weakness on account of his refusal to seize power for himself 'illustrates a psychodynamic dilemma which confronts every democracy'. The success of democracy depends upon the maintenance of a delicate balance between excessive and insufficient inhibition of self-assertive impulses. 'A community whose members are too ready to surrender their individual interests to the general welfare becomes only too ready to succumb to the usurpations of the next tyrant.'

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Article Citation

Rycroft, C.F. (1952). The Psychoanalytic Quarterly 20, 1951; No. 2. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 33:505

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