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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.

Hartocollis, P. (2002). ‘Actual Neurosis’ and Psychosomatic Medicine: The Vicissitudes of an Enigmatic Concept. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 83(6):1361-1373.

(2002). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 83(6):1361-1373

‘Actual Neurosis’ and Psychosomatic Medicine: The Vicissitudes of an Enigmatic Concept

Peter Hartocollis

Out of the concept of neurasthenia, the main non-psychotic diagnosis of nineteenth-century psychiatry besides hysteria, and on the basis of psychophysiological problems of his own, self-diagnosed as neurasthenia, Freud developed the notion of ‘actual neurosis’, a ‘contentless psychic state’ manifested by various somatic symptoms and a depressive mood, which he attributed to a chemical factor associated with aberrant sexual practices and in particular masturbation. Rejected by post-Freudian analysts as such along with the diagnosis of neurasthenia, the concept of ‘actual neurosis’ has survived under various theoretical schemes that seek to explain psychosomatic illness and somatisation, in general, with its concomitant poverty of affects and dearth of fantasy life. In more recent years, the concept of ‘actual neurosis’ has resurfaced under the label of chronic fatigue syndrome, a medical entity thought to be an immunological deficiency, while in psychoanalysis Freud's idea of a contentless mental state has been replaced by that of unconscious fantasy and symbolisation at a pre-genital or pre-verbal level.

[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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