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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.

Wandner, E. Marks, A.L. (2006). San Francisco/East Bay Education Committee. Fort Da, 12(2):113-114.

(2006). Fort Da, 12(2):113-114

San Francisco/East Bay Education Committee

Erica Wandner, Ph.D. and Abigail Levinson Marks, Ph.D.

Since its inception, the SF/EB Education Committee has been at the forefront of providing psychoanalytically informed education opportunities to the ever-growing NCSPP membership and beyond. Each year our committee has engaged in a challenging process of deciding which courses to offer based on our own clinical and theoretical interests and the proposals for courses submitted to us by potential faculty. We have also taken the comments that previous course participants have given us on course evaluations very seriously regarding suggestions for future courses.

The whole experience of creating a year-long curriculum of courses that balances the practical with the provocative is rich and enlightening and one that we feel privileged to take part in. And, yet, over our tenure it has become increasingly clear that we cannot take for granted that all our courses will be well-attended and that each innovative idea will take off swimmingly. The marketplace for psychoanalytic or psychoanalytically informed continuing education opportunities has expanded significantly during the past several years and we are still unclear how much we have been impacted by the Board of Psychology's decision in January 2005 to allow fifty percent of continuing education requirements to be taken online.

And so it goes without saying, we are entering a new era of the unknown. As usual our upcoming season of courses is a balance between the more known and the experimental. What has changed is that we are offering a few less long courses and a few more weekend workshops. The 2004 membership survey suggested there was a preference for shorter courses and so we have responded. We will also be paying even more attention to audience response and thus we invite course participants to be as specific as possible on course evaluations regarding a current course or suggestions for future courses.

At the end of 2006, the two of us are stepping down to make room for new leadership after a highly enjoyable two-year tenure as both committee Chairs and Board members. However, we are both likely to stay on the committee for another year as past-Chairs to help with the transition.

[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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