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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. (2015). The Shadow of the Second Mother: Nurses and Nannies in Theories of Infant Development (2015) by Prophecy Coles, published by Routledge: We Obliterate the Paid (or Enslaved) Caregiver at Our Peril. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 9(3):368-373.

(2015). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 9(3):368-373

The Shadow of the Second Mother: Nurses and Nannies in Theories of Infant Development (2015) by Prophecy Coles, published by Routledge: We Obliterate the Paid (or Enslaved) Caregiver at Our Peril

Review by:
Simon Partridge

The Shadow of the Second Mother asks a fundamental question which has been almost completely ignored by sociologists, social historians, and, until quite recently, also by psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, counsellors, and child psychologists: what has been the role of the wet nurse in child development? For Coles in many respects the nurse/nanny is the modern equivalent.

Coles, an experienced psychotherapist, admits, that despite having had five nannies during the first five years of her life during the Second World War, she had no recollection of them; nor had she been interested in the clinical implications of having had a nanny during some thirty years of work as a psychotherapist. By reflecting on this “obliteration” and opening her eyes to her own lack of recall Coles has written a ground-breaking book that reveals a glaring lacuna in theorising about childhood development (almost always predicated on an assumed mother-infant dyad that those like myself who have had nannies find impossible to swallow). She also reveals grave limitations to the conventional approaches to much child rearing in wider Western society, including the present day.

[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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