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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.

Wilson, E., Jr. (1984). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIV, 1980: On Things Known Since the Beginning of the Century. René Girard and Psychoanalysis. Gilbert Diatkine. Pp. 211-223.. Psychoanal Q., 53:643-644.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIV, 1980: On Things Known Since the Beginning of the Century. René Girard and Psychoanalysis. Gilbert Diatkine. Pp. 211-223.

(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:643-644

Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIV, 1980: On Things Known Since the Beginning of the Century. René Girard and Psychoanalysis. Gilbert Diatkine. Pp. 211-223.

Emmett Wilson, Jr.

These two articles deal with the work of the French literary critic, René Girard,

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whose theories have been developed in his books, Violence and the Sacred (1972) and On Things Hidden Since the Beginning of the World (1978). Diatkine provides an excellent summary of Girard's main these, with which readers may already be familiar. His theory of mimetic desire would place identification in the role of the primary motivational principle of life. Girard links such desire, which takes another as a model, with violence, since there is an implicit rivalry. Religion, ritual, and the scapegoat are various means society has utilized to control the violence inherent in mimetic desire. According to his theory, sexual love is an accessory consequence of identification. Diatkine is impressed with the analyses of myth and tragedy which Girard offers, once the myth or tragedy has been "processed" through Girard's point of view. However, he suspects that Hellenists and students of mythology probably find as many objections to Girard as analysts would when dealing with Girard's analysis of the familiar Freudian texts. He concludes that Girard offers original and productive ideas but turns them into a sterile dogma. Kofman's article is an extract from her forthcoming book on the woman in the texts of Freud. She cites a passage in the article, "An Introduction to Narcissism," in which Freud commented at length on the narcissism of women and the attraction it has for men. This unassailable libidinal position of the woman is comparable to animals of prey, to cats, to the great criminal as presented in literature, and to the humorist. All these have one thing in common: they attract men and are envied by them for having safeguarded their narcissism and their independence. Kofman finds this passage rather atypical for Freud, who was wont to reduce feminine psychology to penis envy. She regards this text of Freud's as rather Nietzschean and wonders whether this is an influence of Lou Andreas-Salomé, with whom Freud was fascinated at the time of writing this passage. The comparisons are, except for the reference to the humorist, rather Nietzschean in character. Moreover, the text is Nietzschean in establishing a differential typology. The author criticizes Girard's discussion of this passage and his conclusions about feminine psychology in general. Girard suggests that narcissism on the woman's part is a strategem, a lure to appear self-sufficient in order to attract men. Kofman feels this point of view is unfair both to women and to Freud's unwonted perspicacity in this passage.

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Article Citation

Wilson, E., Jr. (1984). Revue Française De Psychanalyse. XLIV, 1980. Psychoanal. Q., 53:643-644

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