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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.

Gray, S.H. (1996). Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. LVII, 1993. Body and Self in Feminine Development: Implications for Eating Disorders and Delicate Self-Mutilation. Lisa W. Cross. Pp. 41-68.. Psychoanal Q., 65:676.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 65:676

Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. LVII, 1993. Body and Self in Feminine Development: Implications for Eating Disorders and Delicate Self-Mutilation. Lisa W. Cross. Pp. 41-68.

Review by:
Sheila Hafter Gray

The author postulates that eating disorders and delicate self-mutilation are associated deviations of feminine development. She believes that the syndrome of fasting and stigmata that has been observed in certain Christian holy women throughout history is identical to this clinical picture. Both are attempts to gain power over one's body by making it known and impervious, in contrast to a normative feminine view of one's body as mysterious and invaded by lover or child. Until the late nineteenth century, women who practiced holy anorexia tended to gain prestige and social power. In their quest for power over others, which they now rarely achieve, contemporary patients tend toward sadomasochistic relationships. They seem to confound oral, anal, and phallic aspects of their experience of the body. Unable to come to terms with the hidden, ambiguous, and unruly aspects of the female body, they frequently split self from the body it inhabits.

[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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