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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. (1948). Institute Report—1947-1948. Am. J. Psychoanal., 8(1):83-84.

(1948). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 8(1):83-84

The American Institute for Psychoanalysis

Institute Report—1947-1948

Muriel Ivimey, M.D.

Important changes have been effected in the administration of the Institute in the past year. Originally, the Institute was established as one of the facilities of the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis, and it functioned under the auspices of the Association. Last year an administrative reorganization was undertaken and a charter was granted by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York for a period of three years. As a consequence, veterans can now avail themselves of postgraduate training in the Institute under the G. I. Bill of Rights. These developments entailed the drafting of a constitution for the administration of the Institute independent of the Association and with full autonomy of its own.

The Institute is now governed by a Board of Trustees with a presiding officer, a secretary, and a treasurer. The Dean is the administrative officer of the Institute, responsible to the Board of Trustees. He functions in cooperation with the Faculty Council, of which he is chairman. Subsidiary committees will handle various other administrative functions. Membership in the Faculty Council and in the various committees is drawn from the membership of the Institute. The membership of the Institute consists of a faculty organized in categories according to qualifications, experience, and activity. As a result of the increase in the candidate enrollment, new appointments to the faculty, and the expansion of the teaching program, many new details pertaining to functions, procedures and policies have been worked out.

[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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