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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.

Bowlby, J. (1960). Separation Anxiety. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 41:89-113.

(1960). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 41:89-113

Separation Anxiety

John Bowlby


Since 1948 the Tavistock Child Development Research Unit has been concerned with recording the manifest responses which commonly occur when children between the ages of about 12 months and 4 years are removed from the mother figures to whom they are attached and remain with strangers. Preliminary papers and a scientific film have been published (67), (64), (65), (13), (14) and a comprehensive report by James Robertson and the writer is in preparation. In it we shall draw not only on Robertson's own observations and those of other workers reported in the scientific literature, notably those of Burlingham and Freud (17), (18), and Heinicke (42), but also on reports given us by mothers and nurses with first-hand experience of the problem. Since there is a high consensus in these reports we regard it as firmly established empirically that all children of this age, except those who have already suffered considerable deprivation of maternal care or are seriously ill, react to the experience with shock and anxiety. Our confidence in the validity of these observations is something we wish to emphasize since it is not uncommon for those whose theories lead to expectations of a different kind to cast doubt on them. In our view it is the theories which are mistaken, not the observations, and it is with the theoretical issues raised by these data that this paper is concerned.

It is evident, however, that the nature and dynamics of the responses to the rupture of a social bond cannot be understood until there is some understanding of the nature and dynamics of the bond itself.

[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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