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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.

Harkavy, E.E. (1949). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 18:277-278.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:277-278

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

Edward E. Harkavy


Margolin psychoanalyzed a woman while concurrently inspecting her gastric mucosa which had been surgically exposed following a suicidal attempt with caustic potash. He discovered to his surprise that unconscious ideas and affects influenced gastric functions to such an extent that these functions became dissociated under the influence of certain unconscious constellations. From these observations and others not yet reported by him, he derives a 'dynamic resynthesis of psychoanalysis with the biology from which it arose and later parted', as well as 'a new method of validation of psychoanalytic hypotheses and theory'. His first dialectical step is to distinguish between mind and brain: the central nervous system contains localized representations of organs and their functions, while the mind elaborates fantasies of form and of function. Secondly, as the fantasies change, memory traces called engrammes of both psyche and somm remain. Finally, deep regressions may evoke 'engrammes based on the involuntary part of the bodily functions' such as those seen in the dissociated functioning of the stomach.

Dr. Eidelberg expressed his confidence in psychoanalytic data themselves, considering them as valid as the knee jerk. He asked how the speaker differentiated between conversion hysteria and organ neuroses. Dr. P.

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