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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.

Long, S. (2006). Organizational Defenses Against Anxiety: What Has Happened Since the 1955 Jaques Paper?. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 3(4):279-295.

(2006). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 3(4):279-295

Research Articles

Organizational Defenses Against Anxiety: What Has Happened Since the 1955 Jaques Paper?

Susan Long, Ph.D.

The idea of social defenses against paranoid and depressive anxiety has grown from a working hypothesis put forward by Jaques in 1955 into a theory of social defenses against the distressing and unbearable emotions aroused by organizational tasks and dynamics. Jaques reneged on his early ideas, dismissing psychodynamic causes and embracing structural explanations. But the application of social defense theory beyond micro-systems to broader systems dynamics has meant that psychodynamic and structural ideas of system and role have now become more integrated.

Organizations contain many systems: task, political, social, technical. The community system level of organization is explored. When not consciously recognized as a system, people are unable to actively take up roles as citizens of the organization. Lack of recognition or assertion of such roles leaves subjectivity under threat. This is yet another source of social defenses. These ideas are explored through reference to inter-subjective theory.

[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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