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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.

Howes, D. (1997). Oedipus Out of the Trobriands: Sensory Order, Erotogenic Zones, and Psychosexual Development in the Massim Region of Papua New Guinea. Psychoanal. Psychol., 14(1):43-63.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 14(1):43-63

Oedipus Out of the Trobriands: Sensory Order, Erotogenic Zones, and Psychosexual Development in the Massim Region of Papua New Guinea

David Howes, Ph.D.

The Trobriand Islands, which are situated in the Massim reg on of Papua New Guinea, are one of the most famous testing grounds of Freudian theory. It was on the basis of data gathered there in the 1910s that the ethnographer Bror islaw Malinowski (1924) rocked the psychoanalytic establishment by questioning the universality of the Oedipus complex. Malinowski's argument was subsequently refuted by Melford Spiro (1982) in Oedipus in the Trobriands. In this article I take a new look at the Trobriands Oedipus controversy, paying special attention to the evidence of the senses, and I conclude that Malinowski was perhaps even more right than he suspected. I demonstrate that the sensory organization of the Trobriand psyche during the period ranging from infancy to the end of adolescence differs in certain important respects from that of the Western psyche and that these differences are conducive to the emergence of the alternative social organization of the psyche described by Malinowski in his original paper on the Trobriand complete.

[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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