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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.

Wangh, M. (1994). Journal of Social Work and Policy in Israel. V-Vi (Special Issue), 1992: Unconscious Derivations of the Nazi Language in the Children of the Nazi Generation. Dieter Ohlmeier. Pp. 61-69.. Psychoanal Q., 63:610.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of Social Work and Policy in Israel. V-Vi (Special Issue), 1992: Unconscious Derivations of the Nazi Language in the Children of the Nazi Generation. Dieter Ohlmeier. Pp. 61-69.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:610

Journal of Social Work and Policy in Israel. V-Vi (Special Issue), 1992: Unconscious Derivations of the Nazi Language in the Children of the Nazi Generation. Dieter Ohlmeier. Pp. 61-69.

Martin Wangh

Ohlmeier calls attention to the fact that despite the present repudiation of Nazism, many of the terms coined at the period of Nazi domination have entered present-day speech, for instance, "Endlösung" (final solution). He goes further and believes that prefixes like "be-" or "durch-," which have a passive or a forceful, active connotation, are more frequently used now than formerly. When one makes a patient conscious of this usage, the patient is likely to become angry and often quits the analysis. Ohlmeier thinks that this is due to the fact that the second and third post-Nazi generations are still highly sensitive to any interpretation of their aggressiveness or passivity. The patient feels that such passive or aggressive impulses must be discharged by immediate action, and therefore takes flight from the analysis.

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Article Citation

Wangh, M. (1994). Journal of Social Work and Policy in Israel. V-Vi (Special Issue), 1992. Psychoanal. Q., 63:610

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