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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.

Alexander, F. Kansas, T. (1935). Concerning the Genesis of the Castration Complex. Psychoanal. Rev., 22(1):49-52.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Review, 22(1):49-52

Concerning the Genesis of the Castration Complex

Franz Alexander, M.D. and Topeka Kansas

Translated by:
C. F. Menninger, M.D.

I want to describe the psychological conditions relative to which one of my patients remembered an important dream of his childhood, the connection of which with a significant experience of his childhood furnishes a convincing confirmation of our representation of the genesis of the fear of castration. The dreamer was a young artist who suffered from temporary impotence. A childhood dream, which he had completely forgotten, he remembered during an analytic session in which a recent dream was being analyzed. The recent dream, which brought back to his consciousness the dream of childhood, was as follows:

I see an acrobat or boxer with a yellow vest in the typical posture which an acrobat would assume, in order to demonstrate his physical pozver or strength. He held his legs straddled in a particular manner.”

To “boxer” there came into his mind the gymnasium apparatus which he had bought the previous day for exercising and to strengthen his muscles. The great significance which the patient attached to physical strength had become known to us in a previous hour. The wish to be strong was in him a substitute for the lessened sexual potency and was to help him overcome the unpleasant feeling of inferiority. The overestimation of bodily strength is quite frequent in patients who suffer impotency.

With “yellow vest” he associated gold and gold money. Money filled for him the same role as physical strength; it was a substitute for genital potency and a means of overcoming the inferiority caused by the impotence. This method also, i.e.,

[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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