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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.

Ahumada, J.L. (2016). Rejoinder to Robert A. Paul's Response. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 97(3):873-874.

(2016). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 97(3):873-874

Rejoinder to Robert A. Paul's Response Related Papers

Jorge L. Ahumada

My thanks to Dr Paul for his kind comment, and for his sincere effort to integrate our differing outlooks. My own commentary was more critical, because the current cultural turn (or should I say cultural slide?) appears to me quite less benign than it does to him.

Two months ago my wife Luisa C. Busch de Ahumada received in consultation a toddler just 2 years old, Ben, brought because of unending shrieking: when not given his mother's smartphone he went into a furious cry which lasted uninterrupted for two or three hours, and he would throw himself violently backwards, heedless of pain. This had its start at age 6 months when the mother gave him her smartphone to entertain himself with and found that ‘he was happy’. Despite her successful experience with a 19-month-old mute autistic girl (Busch de Ahumada and Ahumada, 2015) and other early cases, she felt he was hardly treatable. Ben's early handling of the smartphone screen had fed his feelings of omnipotence in ways that a teddy bear or a rattle would have not, in a dynamic of empowerment disclosed by Leo Kanner (1943) in the autistic spinning of objects. Ben connected to his smartphone-screen, and just to it: his omnipotent ‘ego’ was a ‘me and my smartphone-screen’, while his threatening, furiously rejected ‘not-me’ included his mother and the rest of the universe. Early access to screen technology bred the pathology.

This excruciating limit-case strongly supports the advice of the Joint Statement to the U.

[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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