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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.

Stern, D. Sander, L. (1980). New Knowledge about the Infant from Current Research: Implications for Psychoanalysis. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 28:181-198.
    

(1980). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 28:181-198

New Knowledge about the Infant from Current Research: Implications for Psychoanalysis

Daniel Stern, M.D. and Louis Sander, M.D.

Daniel Stern opened the panel so as to set the stage for the subsequent papers. He commented on the need for a more comprehensive conceptualization relating events in earliest life to later, clinically observed personality organization. Such conceptualization really depends on an adequate base of empirical data about the early developmental period. It is in the interest of making known some of that early empirical data that the panel was convened.

Thomas F. Anders of Stanford, California, in a paper entitled State and Rhythmic Processes, began by noting the relevance of his remarks to the previous day's panel on Monica, particularly her subsequent sleep disturbances as related to the characteristics of her sleep in early infancy, and in relation to infant sleep and environmental interaction as it effects the regulation of state in infants.

The concept of state was very simply defined in Ashby's terms as any well-defined condition or property that can be recognized if it occurs again. The term "again" explicitly introduced a cycling or periodic aspect of state.

[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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