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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.

Padel, J. (1987). A Commentary on the Series. Brit. J. Psychother., 4(2):164-168.

(1987). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 4(2):164-168

Theoretical Concepts: Narcissism V

A Commentary on the Series

John Padel

The Editor has kindly given me the opportunity to review the series of papers on Narcissism written from various points of view. I hope to encourage others to read them again and to evaluate their different ways of stating the theoretical and clinical issues with which ‘narcissism’ confronts us. Since narcissistic processes are reflexive, we are at once involved in considering how we conceptualise the human person, how we describe the whole system of his/her internal relations (of self as object to self as subject), and what we assume when we try to describe what happens as exernal relations affect the internal system.

As I reread them, the different papers have called to mind various patients, my own and others', and the problems which they have posed in treatment and in description and discussion of the problems. It is also useful to be able to refer to a good literary case, one available to all, and for this purpose none better, as Rushi Ledermann reminds us, than Ovid's version of the myth of Narcissus, which dwells on the external and the internal relations of the youth. Rather than the Loeb bilingual edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses, which Ledermann suggests in her bibliography, I recommend more accessible versions. Mary Innes's prose translation has been current in Penguin for over 30 years, and last year The World's Classics issued a delightful translation in verse by A. D. Melville (1986). For those who do read Latin the story is told in lines 339-510 of Book III.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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