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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.

Davids, J. (1990). ‘I Don't Like Goodbyes’: The Analysis of a Young Traumatized Boy. Bul. Anna Freud Centre, 13(1):3-23.

(1990). Bulletin of the Anna Freud Centre, 13(1):3-23

‘I Don't Like Goodbyes’: The Analysis of a Young Traumatized Boy

Jennifer Davids

This paper is an account of the analysis of a boy who suffered many impingements on his development in his early years and whose family life has continued to be characterized by much emotional upheaval and strain.

Referral and Presenting Problem

Ryan began analysis when he was four and a half. He is now 5 years 10 months. He was referred by the Anna Freud Nursery which he had attended since he was three.

The staff's concern began during Ryan's first year in his new daily environment, when they observed that he became whiny and miserable in his mother's presence but, once separated from her, could settle. A film made about the Nursery at that time showed Ryan, at 3 years 4 months, to be almost completely non-verbal, tending to leave out the consonants of simple words. He appeared markedly egocentric, protesting wildly at sharing equipment and toys with other children, and unable to take turns in games or even wait for his snack. At this stage his frustration tolerance was strikingly low. Ryan needed to be close to the adults, showed impatience if they did not immediately fulfil his needs and an extreme sensitivity to being corrected or limited. He cried or chucked things about wildly when he felt rebuked.

The Nursery staff described Ryan as an appealing boy of great depth and with much hidden under the exterior. Overall, he seemed rather like a toddler in the negativistic phase, saying ‘no’ to everything. His behaviour was not seen as provocative and it was questioned whether he did not feel enormous frustration over being unable to speak clearly.

Ryan's mother told the Nursery School teacher that his speech had been developing well until, at about 18 months, he contracted a severe case of measles followed by a virus which produced diarrhoea and vomiting. ‘Altogether in a bad state’, he stopped talking and walking, and regressed to crawling and being a lap-baby. She could not put him down without his crying.

[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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