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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.

Argentieri, S. (2014). Introduction to: “The Compulsion to Confess and the Compulsion to Judge in the Analytic Situation” by Stefano Fajrajzen. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 95(5):973-976.

(2014). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 95(5):973-976

Key Paper

Introduction to: “The Compulsion to Confess and the Compulsion to Judge in the Analytic Situation” by Stefano Fajrajzen Related Papers

Simona Argentieri

The biography of Stefano Fajrajzen corresponds perfectly to the classic image of the first-generation psychoanalyst: born in a small town somewhere in Mitteleuropa in the early years of the last century to a humble Jewish family; scholarly and polyglot, fascinated from a very young age by the revolutionary theories of Sigmund Freud; persecuted by Nazism, a citizen of the world by vocation and necessity; he studies and practises medicine and psychiatry on both sides of the Atlantic, while at the same time undergoing three psychoanalyses; finally arriving in Italy where he founds one of the first pioneering institutional centres.

And yet this audacious and subversive appearance is hard to reconcile with the individual himself. Small and fragile in build, shy and mild-mannered, he always spoke in a gentle and measured tone of voice. A conciliator by nature, he treated his interlocutors with courtesy and the utmost respect, even when disagreeing with them. He was typically described by those who knew him as a good, fair-minded man. He hardly ever spoke about the exceptional range of his learning, his cosmopolitan experience or his encounters with the great proponents of psychoanalysis; and on the rare occasions when he did present some of his scientific work, he never showed off about it. He would rather listen than talk about himself.

I myself, who was one of his most devoted students, learned an enormous amount from him, and on his death received his entire scientific library from his beloved wife, Elvira, as a gift to the Italian Psychoanalytical Association; yet I was given few confidences about his private life.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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