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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.

Birksted-Breen, D. (2016). Editorial. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(3):559-561.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(3):559-561


Dana Birksted-Breen

Freud complained he was accused of being too “one-sided in our estimation of the sexual impulses” (Freud 1920). But has it gone the other way? Has sexuality virtually disappeared from contemporary psychoanalytic thinking and literature?

What psychoanalysis means by ‘sexual’ and ‘sexuality’ is far from straightforward. It is often forgotten that Freud insisted psychoanalysis should speak of psychosexuality, stressing that the mental factor in sexual life should not be overlooked or underestimated. The body is always mediated by the psychical. For this reason, nothing about sexuality is simple or as it appears. It might be easier to say what sexuality is not. Sexuality, from a psychoanalytic point of view, is not simply about behavior and the manifest. It is also not about biology. Freud writes, “from the point of view of psycho-analysis the exclusive sexual interest felt by men for women is also a problem that needs elucidating and is not a self-evident fact based upon an attraction that is ultimately of a chemical nature” (footnote p 144 added in 1915 to the Three Essays 1905). It is clear from Freud's final idea about the fundamental refusal of the feminine in both sexes that we cannot speak of a simple dichotomy between male and female. Sexuality goes beyond issues of gender and identity and beyond the choice of object. It has to do, as Blass writes (this issue footnote to her paper) with ‘the person in so far as he is a sexual, instinctual, desiring, psychological being’.

[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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