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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.

Acklin, T. (1994). The Psychohistory Review: Studies of Motivation in History and Culture. XXI, 1992/93. New Lives: Differential Receptions of Psychobiographical Writings by Twentieth-Century Historians. Elizabeth Wirth Marvick. Pp. 3-26.. Psychoanal Q., 63:177-178.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Psychohistory Review: Studies of Motivation in History and Culture. XXI, 1992/93. New Lives: Differential Receptions of Psychobiographical Writings by Twentieth-Century Historians. Elizabeth Wirth Marvick. Pp. 3-26.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:177-178

The Psychohistory Review: Studies of Motivation in History and Culture. XXI, 1992/93. New Lives: Differential Receptions of Psychobiographical Writings by Twentieth-Century Historians. Elizabeth Wirth Marvick. Pp. 3-26.

Thomas Acklin

Marvick surveys the development of psychohistory and psychobiography in their distinctively North American forms. She notes the considerable appreciation for psychobiographical studies in America, in contrast to the relative indifference or hostility in France and Great Britain. Psychohistorical studies have usually precipitated an interaction between psychoanalysis and the different disciplines of the liberal arts and sciences. Marvick observes that psychobiographical inquiries have been pursued primarily outside the historical profession in analytically oriented journals. She notes, however, the landmark presidential address of 1957 by William Langer to the American Historical Association, which placed the imprimatur of respectability on the application of analytic hypotheses to historical studies in its

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appreciation of the unconscious sources of changes in attitudes, mentalities, and public perceptions. Marvick wonders whether the appeal of these studies to Americans might be a reaction to the national ethic of the "self-made man," in that they spare the individual full responsibility for his or her success or failure in life, and attribute the determination of personal development to the environment and other biographical factors. Beginning with Preserved Smith's study of Martin Luther in 1913, continuing in the work of many American authors, and of European analysts who emigrated to the United States, such as Erik Erikson, finally blossoming in the development of The Psychohistory Review and The Journal of Psychohistory, psychobiography and psychohistory have received a greater audience in America than elsewhere.

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Article Citation

Acklin, T. (1994). The Psychohistory Review: Studies of Motivation in History and Culture. XXI, 1992/93.. Psychoanal. Q., 63:177-178

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