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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.

(1915). Varia. Psychoanal. Rev., 2(3):358-360.

(1915). Psychoanalytic Review, 2(3):358-360


Ceremonial Consummation.—Were we some day to develop a sense of the continuity of time, certain of our present day attitudes to time would become difficult to understand. The key to a not unimportant part of ceremonialism would be lost. I refer to crisis or epochal ceremonialism and what we may call rites of consummation.

Underlying initiation, marriage, and funeral ceremonies is the theory that the changes of life can be met at a set, assigned time, dragooned as it were into given periods, and this theory is tenable because the continuity of time is ignored. Dividing it seems entirely practicable.

Although this arbitrariness about time enables one to dodge change as it occurs, it does not make the facing of change less inevitable. It only allows that confrontation to be put off. Such procrastination, change met out of relation to time, calls for a celebration, results in ceremonialism. Given ceremonial, the change seems man made, not time made, not an outcome of nature. Without the ceremony the change, it is believed, would not have occurred, or at least would not have been valid. Fulfillment, consummation, is a question not of time, but of ceremonial.

Among us in certain circles this point of view has already been challenged—graduation does not mean the end of education, education goes on we say through life; nor does marriage end the story, the pair living happily ever after; we do not forget the dead after we have finished mourning them. But the very need of all these assertions is an evidence of the existence of the aforesaid point of view.

Its existence among peoples of an early culture is plain enough in their ordinary epochal ceremonial. Through initiation, a boy or girl is made a man or woman. Adolescence is achieved by way of ceremony. The sexual life is also established ceremonially—through ceremonial defloration, formal courtship, wedding rites. Death as a passage from one life to another is facilitated by ceremonial or dependent on it. Without the proper funeral rites a soul goes astray, a lost ghost.

But it is in certain extraordinary aspects of primitive ceremonialism that the relation between it and the primitive sense of fulfillment shows most plainly. It sometimes happens in savage communities that a lad is not initiated with his contemporaries. His initiation is deferred, perhaps it never takes place.

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