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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.

List of Articles

Volume 19 (2018)

Issue 1 - No. 72
Editors' Lair 2  i
Kurt Jacobsen and Robert M. Young
The Dynamics of Political Humiliation and Resistance as Psychosocial Well-Being  1
Ryan LaMothe
The Two Jacobys: Contradiction, Ironies and Challenges in New Left Critical Social Psychology after Jordan Peterson  21
Neil McLaughlin
Ineffable and Weird Fiction  47
Chase O'Gwin and Kareen Ror Malone
Thinking Back to Linking: Neuroscientific Correlates of Bion's Theories of Thought and Object Relating  65
Christopher W. T. Miller, M.D.
Interview with Peter Barham  84
Robert M. Young
Reflections On My Work  89
Peter Barham
Joanna Ryan, Class and Psychoanalysis: Landscapes of Inequality. Routledge, 2017  108
Robert M. Young
Issue 2 - No. 73
Editors' Lair 3  i
Kurt Jacobsen and Robert M. Young
A Tribute to Joel Kovel  1
Robert M. Young
Erich Fromm and Contemporary American Politics  7
George N. Lundskow and Lauren Langman
Reflection or Action: And Never the Twain Shall Meet  23
R. D. Hinshelwood
Ekphraisis and Psyche: Symbols Spoken From the Deep  32
Thomas Christian, Ph.D., LCSW and Ron Kimbell, LCSW
Cinema on the Couch
The Educator as Neurotic: A Rankian Analysis of Impotent Teachers in Film  41
Daniel Sullivan
Treats and Treatments
A Conversation with Ian Parker  64
Robert M. Young
Issue 3 - No. 74
Editors Lair 4  i
Kurt Jacobsen and Robert M. Young
Sickness in the Body Politic: Christopher Bollas and the Deformation of Political Spaces and Subjects  1
Ryan LaMothe
Psychoanalysis, Values and Politics  23
Robert M. Young
On the Roots of Absolutism  32
Karl Figlio
A Double Life: Georges Perec, W, and the Making of the Memory of Childhood  49
R. J. E. Bacon
Cinema On the Couch
Abjection and Authoritarianism in I Am Legend and its Remakes  67
Jeremiah Morelock
Treats and Treatments
Biogenetic Overreach  89
Steve Pittelli
The Manichean Ploy: Psychoanalysis, Political Repression, and The Crucible  93
Kurt Jacobsen
Repetition and Difference: A Proof of Sorts  101
Michael Melmed
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