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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.

Josephs, L. (1997). The View From The Tip Of The Iceberg. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:425-463.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:425-463

The View From The Tip Of The Iceberg

Lawrence Josephs

In recent years there has been a growing interest in refining the technique of ego defense analysis. All of these approaches share in common an attempt to work closely with the patient's free associations, to interpret at a level that is accessible to the patient's consciously observing ego, and to avoid bypassing the analysis of the patient's most surface-level resistances in an effort to understand unconscious conflict. These innovations reflect a commendable effort to work in a way that is rigorously empirical, that respects the patient's autonomy, and that minimizes the pressure of the analyst's transferential authority in the patient's acceptance of the analyst's interpretations. Despite the undeniable value of these technical innovations, such approaches to ego defense analysis may inadvertently result in certain overemphases in technique that may unnecessarily constrain the analytic process. They may result in a sort of obsessive tunnel vision that is overly focused on small details to the exclusion of the larger picture. An approach that counterbalances the microscopic and the macroscopic analysis of ego defense is recommended.

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