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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.

Westen, D. (1998). Freud Scientifically Reappraised: Testing the Theories and Therapy. By Seymour Fisher and Roger P. Greenberg. New York: John Wiley, 1995, 353 pp., $59.95. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(3):970-974.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(3):970-974

Freud Scientifically Reappraised: Testing the Theories and Therapy. By Seymour Fisher and Roger P. Greenberg. New York: John Wiley, 1995, 353 pp., $59.95

Review by:
Drew Westen

This book will undoubtedly be the last effort anyone will undertake to review the empirical literature that bears on classical Freudian theory. This is so for two reasons, which speak to the strengths and weaknesses of this important volume. First, the authors have done such an impressive job that the task does not need to be done again. There, is probably no one else who could have done it, since the authors have been at the center of this enterprise for many years, and no one is likely to be in the position to do so again. Second, research bearing on specifically Freudian hypotheses (such as the validity of Freud's conceptualizations of the oral and anal characters) is drying up. The present volume is only a fraction of the size of the authors' earlier volume that summarized the literature up to 1977, because personality researchers are no longer interested in testing hypotheses from early-twentieth-century psychoanalysis.

And that leads to the major weakness of Freud Scientifically Appraised: it is not about the empirical appraisal of psychoanalytic hypotheses but about the appraisal of Freud's psychoanalytic hypotheses circa 1920.

[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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