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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.

Berenstein, I. (1987). Analysis Terminable and Interminable, Fifty Years on. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 68:21-35.

(1987). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 68:21-35

Analysis Terminable and Interminable, Fifty Years on

Isidoro Berenstein


The author reviews 'Analysis terminable and interminable' and traces the similarities to and differences from the situation fifty years ago, discussing Freud's personal circumstances in 1937 and the circumstances of the psychoanalytical movement and concentrating on the relationship with Ferenczi; a consideration of social and political circumstances and some of the points dealt with in Freud's eight sections from the standpoint of today. He discusses the various possible connotations of the terms 'terminable' and 'interminable'. Other terms that could be used coincide only partially: finite and infinite; capable of being worked through and not capable of being worked through; expressible and inexpressible; finished and unfinished; possible and impossible.

The author considers new circumstances for the practice of psychoanalysis in situations of

social trauma which raise the question of analysis possible and impossible.

Finally, an attempt is made to arrive at a provisional definition of the conditions under which analysis may be regarded as terminable or interminable.

[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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