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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.

(1966). News and Proceedings of Affiliate Societies and Institutes. Bul. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 22:422-435.

(1966). Bulletin of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22:422-435

News and Proceedings of Affiliate Societies and Institutes


Correspondent: Alvin H. Polatin. Newly Elected Member: James H. Wall. Newly Appointed Staff Member of the Columbia Clinic: George O. Papanek.

The resignation of Herbert Ripley was accepted.

On Saturday morning, November 13, 1965, a joint meeting with the New York Psychoanalytic Society was held at Hosack Hall, New York Academy of Medicine, on the topic of "Childhood Schizophrenia." The panel consisted of Manuel Furer, William Goldfarb, Margaret S. Mahler, and Richard S. Ward, with Lawrence C. Kolb as Moderator. Following the scientific proceedings a luncheon was held in the Presidents' Gallery for members of both Societies.

A Special Meeting of Members took place on February 1, 1966 at the New York Academy of Medicine to consider the issues and recommendations set forth by the COP Report of the American Psychoanalytic Association. John A. P. Millet, Richard L. Frank, and Alvin H. Polatin presented various aspects of the items under deliberation. The membership voiced unanimous approval of the actions taken and planned in connection with the subject of the report.

The Committee on Postgraduate Psychoanalytic Education is currently sponsoring two workshops: "Issues in Ego Development," moderated by Stanley R. Lesser, is continuing from last year; "Recent Developments in Dream Research in Relation to Psychoanalytic Theory," moderated by Kenneth Z. Altshuler, commenced in January.

The following candidates were recently certified in psychoanalysis at the Columbia Clinic: David S. Kahn and Donald S. Kornfeld.

The Tenth Annual Sandor Rado Lectures were given on February 25, 1966, by I. Arthur Mirsky, Professor and Chairman, Department of Clinical Science, University of Pittsburgh. His paper, "Physiological, Psychological, and Social Determinants of Psychosomatic Disorders," dealt with "Predisposing Factors" at the 5:00 P.M. session and continued with "Precipitating Factors" at 8:30 P.M. A reception followed the evening lecture.


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