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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.

(1935). The Religious Situation. By Paul Tillich. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1932. Pp. 182. Price $1.50.. Psychoanal. Rev., 22(1):98.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Review, 22(1):98

The Religious Situation. By Paul Tillich. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1932. Pp. 182. Price $1.50.

This highly philosophical work, which attempts “to ascertain whether there are creative forces at work in the catastrophes of the time” examines the various realms of thought as they are expressed in science, metaphysics, art, politics, ethics, and religion, and concludes that in every sphere there has been a capitulation to a capitalistically organized state which shows itself in every sphere by a relation to time, which is expressed by a self-sufficient finitude, for he says, “In the sphere of the finite every goal that is set up, every method which is employed, is doubtful, limited, ultimately irresponsible. Only the Unconditioned can create unconditioned responsibility….” He discusses his own philosophical attitude as one of “belief-ful realism,” and realism for Tillich is “direction toward the Unconditioned.” In other words, to put it briefly, so long as we are content to remain in the realm of the finite and the conditioned, we will never soar to those heights which freedom from these shackles would make possible and reach the spiritual sources of inspiration. For example, in the practice of medicine he says that” the separation of body and soul, then the mechanization of the body, then the conception of the psychic as the product of the physical machine— these logical consequences of a rationalistic, atomistic conception of nature which had been deprived of life and of inwardness made the healing art more and more a mechanical and technical activity” And then he says very interestingly: “It was only when the psycho-analytic method became effective after 1900 that more important consequences were realized. This method restores independence to the soul. The depths of the unconscious are explored independently of bodily and organic processes.”


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