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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.

Cherow-O’Leary, R. (2020). Mirrors, Passion, Power, and Spirit: Fact and Fiction in the Stories of Aging Women. Psychoanal. Inq., 40(3):197-206.

(2020). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 40(3):197-206

Mirrors, Passion, Power, and Spirit: Fact and Fiction in the Stories of Aging Women

Renée Cherow-O’Leary, Ph.D.

This article combines and contrasts two stories of aging women – one based on the classic tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs whose protagonist is the rejected “Wicked Queen” and the second, based on a survey that the author conducted for her women’s college class’s 45th reunion. The voices of narrative storytelling about older women, whether fictionalized or actual, raise issues of Mirrors (loss of beauty and re-framing self-image), Passion (finding a lodestar from which feeling and meaning can coalesce), Power (courage to navigate the world and find inner strength as aging reorganizes priorities), and Spirit (sustenance and wisdom that nourishes, fortifies and comforts) as the final third of life brings challenges and the urgency of time. The article integrates strands of psychoanalytic research and theory about the stories told to women about aging, the stories we tell ourselves, and the move from external concerns to developing internal wisdom for the last stage of life’s journey.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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