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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.

Tolliday, H. (2013). The Mother, the Psychoanalyst, the Poet and the Artist: Containment and Growth of the Mind. Brit. J. Psychother., 29(2):217-229.

(2013). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 29(2):217-229

Unconscious Experience

The Mother, the Psychoanalyst, the Poet and the Artist: Containment and Growth of the Mind

Heather Tolliday

This paper considers the difficulties which humans have in using and developing their capacity for thought. Growth of the human mind, through attunement of the mother's unconscious experience with the infant's, is explored along with the distortions which arise because of aversion to uncertainty and suffering. It then looks at psychoanalysis and the verbal and visual arts in the light of the maternal function, and the way in which they also promote the growth of the mind. Four products of the human mind - an excerpt from an infant observation published in 1998, some post-Kleinian psychoanalytic clinical case material from the 1980s, John Keats's 19th century Ode to a Nightingale and Lucas Cranach's 1526 painting, Adam and Eve - are used to illustrate some of the similarities and differences among them in giving conscious form to the unconscious.

[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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