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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.

Partridge, S. (2009). The Great British Childhood Robbery. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 3(3):x-xi.

(2009). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 3(3):x-xi

The Great British Childhood Robbery

Simon Partridge

Last June, following the Brown Cabinet reshuffle, the Education Guardian carried a spread ‘Under new management’ on the new departmental arrangements for education and children - see http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/jun/09/schools-14-19-education. What leapt out at me then was the sentence, ‘The government's ambition [is] to make the UK the best place in the world to grow up’. The rhetoric seemed to have lost all contact with reality: I would settle for moving from last place in the UN Children's Fund industrial countries assessment to about half way up - from twenty-first to, say, tenth. According to the Observer (2 August 2009), thirty children have been murdered or died as result of abuse in the two years since the Baby P scandal.

I have come to the conclusion that we British live in a culture which is almost totally out of touch with the emotional needs and creativity of childhood - but we only notice when there's a Baby P, or a young girl starves to death in her own home. How did nobody notice: neighbours, school, GP? I happened to be explaining to a Belgian child psychologist about my critique of boarding schools, and we got around to the young age at which children here start schooling - whether day or boarding. In Belgium it is six; in Scandinavia it is seven or eight. My Belgian friend said, ‘It's tough on teachers as well as kids.’ No argument. We were left with the question as to why it goes on.

Perhaps we can get some stronger language about this, something along the lines that children should not be robbed of their childhood by a society and pedagogy which prioritizes the convenience of [some] parents and industry over the developmental needs of children.

I have been re-reading John Bowlby's A Secure Base - his marvellous collection of accessible lectures.

[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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