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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.

Miller, A.G. (1998). The Healing Connection; How Women Form Relationships in Therapy and in Life, by Jean Baker Miller and Irene Pierce Stiver, Beacon Press, 1997, 231 ps.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 58(3):342-345.

(1998). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 58(3):342-345

The Healing Connection; How Women Form Relationships in Therapy and in Life, by Jean Baker Miller and Irene Pierce Stiver, Beacon Press, 1997, 231 ps.

Review by:
Alan G. Miller, M.D.

The question, “What is effective in what we do? has been asked in the past, but never has it been answered so cogently as in this book. The authors have distilled 35 years of work into a book of just over 200 pages that will knock your socks off. They characterize their work as the product of four clinicians and others meeting weekly in a study group. Some study group! Then they ask “innocent” questions, such as, “What constitutes mental health?” They decide that it may not be the finding of a separated self or of finding gratification and that continuing to pursue what seems to be the American ideal of arrogant narcissism might not be an appropriate goal. An ability to participate actively in relationships that foster growth and well-being of others is believed to be a workable alternative. What does one do in one's life if one has already learned one is not the best and the brightest, has no chance and no hope of ever reaching such a point, and is therefore culturally doomed? Being active in mutually empowering relationships sounds like a truly livable alternative. Although the authors have worked primarily with women and much of the book addresses the concerns of women, the relational insights that the authors offer have applicability to both genders.

The book is divided into four sections—” Connections,” “Disconnections,” “Psychotherapy,” and “Community”—that address different aspects of their findings.

[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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