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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.

Ivimey, M. (1944). Report of the American Institute of Psychoanalysis. Am. J. Psychoanal., 4(1):81-82.

(1944). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 4(1):81-82

Report of the American Institute of Psychoanalysis

Muriel Ivimey, M.D.

As a general principle in institutions for post-graduate training, it is to be taken for granted that arbitrary pedagogical authoritarianism has no place among mature professional men and women. In psychoanalytic education the principle of non-authoritarianism is all the more appropriate and necessary not only on paper but in practise. Psychoanalysis was discovered only two generations ago; we work in a crucial period of its development. We believe there are still boundless areas to be explored; innumerable problems are still to be solved. We work in a field where nothing is finally settled, all is in a state of flux. In our approach to teaching we are on guard lest the student merely accept all that is offered to him. We feel gratified if he develops his own opinions, discusses moot points, expresses his own views. There is no place for inertia and avoidance of responsibility in thinking and working. The Institute aims at a balance of responsibility and of mutual effort in the conduct of courses, and at the full participation of those who offer training in psychoanalysis and those who come to us for it.

In reviewing the past year's work, we have taken into account the students' evaluation of courses and our own evaluation of the students' response in the courses, following the custom inaugurated a year ago. We have the impression that on the whole student participation in seminars is freer, more critical and more appreciative of the complexities of psychological disturbances.

[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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