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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.

Riolo, F. (2008). Identità: la giubba e il filo. Rivista Psicoanal., 54(4):897-903.

(2008). Rivista di Psicoanalisi, 54(4):897-903

XIV Congresso Nazionale della Società Psicoanalitica Italiana «Giornate italiane»

Identità: la giubba e il filo Language Translation

Fernando Riolo

Capita a volte, mentre stiamo pensando a qualcosa, di imbatterci in un racconto che la illumina in modo singolare e perspicuo. Inizierò perciò col dare la parola a Medardo, il multiforme protagonista de Gli elisir del diavolo (1815), di Ernst Theodor Hoffmann:

«Avvertii uno strano lavorio… il mio «io» era diviso in mille pezzi; ognuno di essi si muoveva; aveva una sua propria consapevolezza della vita. Inutilmente il cervello impartiva ordini: le membra, come vassalli ribelli, si rifiutavano di riunirsi sotto il suo comando. Poi i pensieri delle singole parti cominciarono a ruotare in modo vorticoso […]. Mi parve che quanto noi generalmente chiamiamo «sogno», possa invece essere la presa di conoscenza — per simboli — del filo misterioso che collega e determina gli eventi della nostra vita. Mi parve altresì di dover considerare «perduto» colui che, con l'acquisizione di questa conoscenza creda di aver conquistato anche la forza per poter strappare violentemente quel filo e sfidare l'oscura potenza che impera su di noi».

Hoffmann fu apprezzato da Freud, che vide in lui il geniale profeta della scissione dell'Io e del «doppio». Non piacque invece a Breton, che addirittura lo incluse nel catalogo dei «libri da non leggere».

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