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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.

Balter, L. (1970). The Masks of God: Creative Mythology: By Joseph Campbell. New York: The Viking Press, Inc., 1968. 730 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 39:326-330.

(1970). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 39:326-330

The Masks of God: Creative Mythology: By Joseph Campbell. New York: The Viking Press, Inc., 1968. 730 pp.

Review by:
Leon Balter

Creative Mythology is the fourth and final volume of the series, The Masks of God by Joseph Campbell. The first three volumes, Primitive Mythology, Oriental Mythology, and Occidental Mythology, comprise not only a gigantic exposition of the world's mythology but also the application to that subject matter of the most varied disciplines, e.g., anthropology, sociology, psychology, archeology, linguistics, history, etc. The present volume, Creative Mythology, shares with its sister volumes the same eclectic approach; however, it deals with a different order of mythological phenomena. The previous volumes dealt with 'traditional' mythology; the present, with 'creative' mythology. Campbell makes the distinction between the two in this way: 'In the context of a traditional mythology, the symbols are presented in socially maintained rites, through which the individual is required to experience, or will pretend to have experienced, certain insights, sentiments, and commitments. In what I am calling "creative" mythology, on the other hand, this order is reversed: the individual has had an experience of his own—of order, horror, beauty, or even mere exhilaration—which he seeks to communicate through signs; and if his realization has been of a certain depth and import, his communication will have the value and force of living myth—for those, that is to say, who receive and respond to it of themselves, with recognition, uncoerced.' Later, he states: 'Traditional mythologies, that is to say, whether of the primitive or of the higher cultures, antecede and control experience; whereas what I am here calling Creative Mythology is an effect and expression of experience.

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