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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.

Shneidman, E.S. (1982). The Suicidal Logic of Cesare Pavese. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 10(4):547-563.

(1982). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 10(4):547-563

The Suicidal Logic of Cesare Pavese

Edwin S. Shneidman, Ph.D.

In a previous publication on “risk writing” (Shneidman, 1977), I discussed the role of writing fiction as a life-sustaining or death-facilitating process in certain authors' lives, citing Joseph Conrad and Cesare Pavese, respectively, to illustrate these two opposite effects. The present paper is about Pavese only and is concerned with a quite different topic: the role of styles of mentation — ways of thinking, idiosyncrasies of reasoning, patterns of syllogizing, modes of “concludifying,” pecularities of logic — in relation to suicide. I begin with two general assertions: (a) that among any large number of individuals there are certain styles or patterns of mentation or logic that intensify the probability of a suicide, and (b) that within any one individual there is a range or armamentarium of styles of reasoning available to him, but that certain suicide-facilitating styles of reasoning appear during moments when he is perturbed (and thus may precede the suicide), including those moments when his level of disturbance is increased by his very thinking about suicide.

In addition, I wish specifically to describe Pavese's diary writings in further detail, focusing on his styles of thinking (especially when he was thinking of self-destruction), which seemed almost inexorably to lead (or push) him to suicide.

Some Bare Facts About Pavese

He was born in 1908 and died in 1950. He was born in the Piedmont province of northern Italy, that lovely agricultural area between the Swiss Alps and the Italian Riviera.

[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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