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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.

Hanly, M.F. (1994). The Psychoanalytic Theory of Greek Tragedy: By C. Fred Alford. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1992. Pp. 218.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 75:422-423.

(1994). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75:422-423

The Psychoanalytic Theory of Greek Tragedy: By C. Fred Alford. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1992. Pp. 218.

Review by:
Margaret Ann Fitzpatrick Hanly

In his most recent book, C. Fred Alford, Professor of Government at the University of Maryland, shows how the complex tragedies of the Greek poets can illuminate, and be illuminated by, the psychoanalytic ideas of Klein, Lacan, Freud, and others. The author depicts the tragic poets' vision of pity as man's only reliable civilising force. He holds up the Greek poets' capacity to know they were not free and yet were responsible. He shows how we might still learn from the tragedies, in their complex rendering of human passion and family tragedy. Alford's thought is free of an idealisation of culture. He takes the Greek tragic poets seriously in their sole commitment to 'truth-telling about the passions', even when these truths are most disturbing and disruptive of the polis.

One task of civilisation is to denote what is good and what is bad. The Greeks, during the period of the tragedies, were in a crisis over just this issue, a crisis Alford refers to as the Dionysian crisis. In the world-view of the ancient Greeks, only rigid separation of good and bad prevented pollution of the good by the bad; but for the Greek tragic poets, separation between good and bad had failed, and they projected this failure on to the gods. Alford helps to understand the experience of this crisis using Klein's distinction between the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions.

The breakdown of this separation leads to confusion and reversal, coupled with heightened doubts about whether people can act more virtuously than the gods, even should they be able to distinguish good from bad.

[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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