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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.

Deutsch, F. (1952). The Art of Interviewing and Abstract Art. Am. Imago, 9(1):3-19.

(1952). American Imago, 9(1):3-19

The Art of Interviewing and Abstract Art

Felix Deutsch, M.D.

A few years ago I dealt with the problem of understanding emotional conditions of people as these were expressed in artistic production. I had chosen poetic art as an example, to show that the artistic expression of a poet may be determined by his neurotic traits and that the choice of specfiic themes and topics of those writers is intimately related to their personality structure and to their unsolved emotional problems, which they unconsciously discharge in their writings. Deutsch (1).

In the following exposition an attempt is made to acquaint the reader with some thoughts about the art of interviewing and of searching through subterranean pathways into the past, where the child's undeveloped ego reigns over body and mind. The resemblance of the mixture of primitive, viz. primary throught processes of that age period to abstract pictorial art will be pointed out.

The problems of the interview are concerned with the interpretation of meaning by the patient, as compared with the intended meaning of the interviewer. If the interviewer suspcts that the patient does not understand him, then it is not possible for the interviewer completely to clarify this situation in any finite time merely by talking with him further.

[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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