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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.

Schirmeister, P. (2004). Freud in America. Psychoanal. Dial., 14(2):265-286.

(2004). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 14(2):265-286

Freud in America

Pamela Schirmeister, Ph.D.

Taking the lectures that Freud delivered at Clark University in 1909 as a starting point, this paper explores the features of the American cultural psyche that share deep affinities with some of the assumptions that underlie Freudian psychoanalysis. Using a variety of literary texts, the author locates two central points at which a strain of the American imagination intersects with psychoanalysis. The first is the belief that there is sense in everything, a belief that can be traced back to Puritan theology and that is secularized but not lost in the 19th century and beyond. According to this belief, the world is a text calling to be interpreted. The interpretation of this text may not be historically guided, as it is in psychoanalysis; it is, however, an interpretation that can only come through experience. An epistemology grounded in experience also develops out of Puritan theology, with its insistence on the individual's unmediated relation to the Creator. The author then considers the ways in which certain 19th-century literary texts employ a performative rhetoric that insists on the centrality of experience as the means to knowledge by forcing the reader into transformative acts of interpretation. This activity mimics what psychoanalysis calls transference, which itself insists that experience is the ground of knowledge. The emphasis on experience that emerges in the literary texts and in the transference leads to a pronounced split between the private and public aspects of the individual. In conclusion, the author examines the different ways in which psychoanalysis and American culture have negotiated that split.

[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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