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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.

Eigner, J.B. (1986). Squid and projective identification. Free Associations, 1(7):75-78.

(1986). Free Associations, 1(7):75-78

Squid and projective identification

Jan Benowitz Eigner

I had just finished Thomas Ogden's book, Projective Identification and Psychotherapeutic Technique (1982). In it, he defines projective identification as:

the way in which feeling-states corresponding to the unconscious fantasies of one person (the projector) are engendered in and processed by another person (the recipient), that is, the way in which one person makes use of another person to experience and contain an aspect of himself.1

I stood in front of the supermarket fish counter, feeling rattled. My client, anguished with suicidal thoughts for nine months, dynamited the therapy session with his avowal to really kill himself this time. Though he wouldn't discuss it, I knew he had a monstrous rage within. Propelled by his anger, he could have been crushing people under his feet as he stomped up the stairway to my office. He turned his warrior against himself every day, and only hours after he left our session. This time, I believed he might do himself in. Even so, I had to attend to the details of my life. My psychology reading group was meeting at my house in two hours. I needed to shop for their visit.

I found myself replaying the therapy session as I waited in line: could I have changed any detail of my response to help him feel like living? Probably, but here I was, number three in the short line at the fish counter. I reminded myself to concentrate on this order. My senses, ordinarily enthusiastic for fresh fish, hadn't caught up with my fast drive to the shop. Back at the office, two miles north, they lay dazed and gaffed on the beige carpet.


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