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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.

Stolorow, R.D. Atwood, G.E. (1997). Respond to Review. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:649-649.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:649-649

Respond to Review

Robert D. Stolorow and George E. Atwood

It seems to us that John Gedo uses his review of our Contexts of Being (JAPA 44/4) to grind an old ax against self psychology (which is not the book's subject matter) and fails to address the theoretical heart of our book. Basing his dismissal of our approach and its originality on his version of a few of our clinical vignettes, he makes no mention at all of our detailed critique of the “myth of the isolated mind” in psychoanalysis (Stolorow and Atwood 1992, pp. 7-22) or of our reexamination, from an intersubjective perspective, of such central psychoanalytic issues as unconscious mental processes (pp. 29-40), the relations between mind and body (pp. 41-50), the nature of trauma (pp. 51-59), and the formation of fantasy (pp. 61-83). Placing us in the camp of radical relativism, he overlooks our careful differentiation between relativism and our own perspectivalism (pp. 123-124). Grouping us with those analysts who trust (naively, he believes) in the curative power of a benign object relationship, he ignores our emphasis throughout the book on the transformative potential of investigating and illuminating unconscious organizing activity (see especially pp. 34-35). He even faults us for failing to gather associations to a dream that the book makes clear was reported by another author in a journal article (p. 58). While characterizing our style as adversarial and electioneering, Gedo presents a string of misleading sound bites urging readers to vote no on Stolorow and Atwood.


Stolorow, R., & Atwood, G. (1992). Contexts of Being. Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press.

[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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