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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.

Weissberg, J.H. (1992). The Psychoanalytic Envelope. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 20(4):497-508.

(1992). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 20(4):497-508

The Psychoanalytic Envelope

Josef H. Weissberg, M.D.

In view of the many new external changes that profoundly affect psychoanalysis, it is imperative to discuss the psychoanalytic envelope, that is, the sum of external factors that impinge on and influence the practice of psychoanalysis today, the radically changing environment in which psychoanalysis continues to evolve. By psychoanalysis, I include the body of personality theory, the therapeutic modality, and the research technique. All these are rather confusingly referred to as “psychoanalysis.” To perplex further, there are those who include in their definition of psychoanalysis as a therapy only traditional psychoanalysis, that intensive therapy in which the development and resolution of a regressive transference neurosis is encouraged. Others include some or all dynamic psychotherapies that are informed by psychoanalytic personality theory. The more inclusive definition is consistent with what psychoanalysts actually do. The great majority of graduates of psychoanalytic training programs spend some–if not most, or all–of their time performing psychotherapy of a type other than traditional psychoanalysis.

The idea that psychoanalysis in any of its meanings is fixed and impervious to environmental change is fundamentally antipsychoanalytic; the very essence of psychoanalysis lies in the study and understanding of change and of interacting variables. To deny that psychoanalysis itself changes in response to its environment–much as the phenomena studied by psychoanalysis does–is utterly untenable. It has been said facetiously that psychoanalysis is the only scientific discipline that can still use textbooks 100 years old. This speaks to the enduring stamina of psychoanalytic theory. It also, however, reflects an unfortunate resistance to change that has often made psychoanalysis slow to incorporate new knowledge from other scientific disciplines, not to mention changes in the culture at large.

[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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