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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.

Chalif, L. (1994). Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York. Psychoanal Q., 63:406-407.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:406-407

Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York

Lawrence Chalif

DISCUSSION: Dr. Kerry Sulkowicz noted that Dr. Shengold's approach to the two forms of soul murderchild abuse and the concentration camp experience—was from the structural point of view, focusing on ego and superego functioning with great clarity and clinical usefulness. Dr. Sulkowicz suggested that if the perspective is shifted to the developmental and genetic points of view, some significant differences between these two types of soul murder can be seen. First, adult concentration camp victims have already passed through childhood developmental stages, as opposed to the victims of child abuse who have had their very development molded by such experiences. How did early developmental factors (i.e., pre-war personality structure) affect one's response to the concentration camp? Would survival be abetted by the relative psychological health stemming from positive childhood experiences, or, paradoxically, could pathological defenses derived from early trauma increase the camp prisoner's adaptiveness? Whereas parents are ethically, biologically, even evolutionally impelled to care for their children, the Nazis were living up to their collective ego ideal in trying to exterminate the Jews. And while abused children must struggle with profound disappointment in their parents, Levi and other writers have shown how victims of the Holocaust were more often disappointed with their fellow victims (who became abusers in the name of their own survival) than they were with their tormentors.

[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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