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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.

Ribas, D. (2020). Tribute to Alain de Mijolla (1933–2019). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 101(1):188-195.

(2020). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 101(1):188-195


Tribute to Alain de Mijolla (1933–2019)

Denys Ribas

Alain de Mijolla died on 24 January 2019. Born on 15 May 1933, he lived to be 85 years old. At his funeral, his family and friends paid him affectionate tribute and his grandchildren spoke fondly of their Papé, as grandfathers are known in Provence, and as he called his own grandfather who with his grandmother had brought him up.

Captain Rimbaud’s desertion (1975b)

I will first give an example of the psychoanalyst Mijolla's work with his fine article of applied psychoanalysis about Arthur Rimbaud, which along with his other article on identification fantasies—Fantasmes d’identification: Jakob, Freud et Goethe (1975a)—was awarded the Maurice Bouvet prize in 1976. Work on the identifications that will give a book: Visions of the Ego (1981).

Modestly leaving to the numerous commentators on the poet's life and works the ambition of explaining the source of its creativity, Mijolla illustrates his theories concerning the importance and the forms of identifications by focusing specifically on what is missing from the works and the documents, namely the poet's father, Captain Frédéric Rimbaud. A young army volunteer, through his serious approach he became a non-commissioned officer then an officer promoted from the ranks. Sent to Algeria for eight years, after three years of combat he became head of the Arab office in Sebdou, a quieter post where his task was to administer matters relating to the native population and keep the army staff informed about their docility or any rumours circulating about the elusive Emir Abd-el Kader and his rebel troops. He returned to France in 1850 and married Vitalie Cuif in 1853 following his own father's death. Always posted far away from his family, he was never accompanied by them in his appointments, and he gave them a child on each of his return visits. He disappeared permanently from his family's life when Arthur was six years old, and this is the desertion to which Mijolla refers since Captain Rimbaud was never an army deserter, leaving only when he retired. Mijolla pertinently indicates that this time spent in his son's childhood and these procreations were enough to make impressions in a child's life. On condition of having the right.

[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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