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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.

Knutsen, E.J. (1977). On the Emotional Well-Being of Psychiatrists: Overview and Rationale. Am. J. Psychoanal., 37(2):123-129.

(1977). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 37(2):123-129

On the Emotional Well-Being of Psychiatrists: Overview and Rationale

Elaine J. Knutsen, M.D.

There are two characteristics of our time contributing to the increased openness of concern about the impaired physician. Although the focus of this paper is upon the emotional well-being of the psychiatrist, the broader issue of the impaired physician cannot be separated from it and is therefore pertinent. The two characteristics are the legitimization of concern with the quality of life and the emphasis on the accountability, and therefore on the competence, of the physician. The latter applies to all physicians but has a particular thrust for psychiatrists because of both the hitherto general privateness of the work of so many of us and the close relationship, particularly in psychotherapeutic endeavors, between our emotional state and our efficacy. In a somewhat different way the legitimization of personal concern about the quality of one's life has a particular pertinence for the psychiatrist in that it raises the question of whether he can allow for himself that which he encourages in his patients.

Those of us who are particularly concerned with the issue of the emotional well-being of psychiatrists are repeatedly impressed with its complexity and far-reaching ramifications. One way to conceptualize and therefore to bring order to considerations of the issue is to think in terms of two dimensions, a longitudinal one and a cross-sectional one. The longitudinal axis is the range of emotional ill-being/well-being. The cross-sectional axis calls attention to categories to be considered at various points along the longitudinal axis.

[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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