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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.

Kafka, J.S. (1964). Technical Applications of a Concept of Multiple Reality. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:575-578.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:575-578

Technical Applications of a Concept of Multiple Reality

John S. Kafka

Common-sense reality is not adequate to the tasks of modern physical science. This paper is an attempt to examine some of the limitations of common-sense reality in psychiatry.

On the one hand we recognize that our patients' psychological reality at any one moment is a particular pattern of organization of stimuli, and that such patterns are in constant flux. On the other hand, we apply a concept of 'reality testing' in which the reality is the common-sense reality of stable objects, of objects and people with a considerable degree of rigid identity. This degree of rigid identity is a building block of common sense. Yet we are constantly faced with the problem of comprehending—using common sense—an apparent lack of this degree of rigid identity.

For purposes of exposition, I would now like to differentiate comprehending from understanding. We may learn to understand a mathematical formula containing the negative of a square root, but at least most of us, most of the time, will not be able to comprehend it. To comprehend something means that it is part of our experience. That means we must feel it, but it cannot be the total of our felt experience. We must grasp with something that is bigger than the object that is to be grasped. To comprehend the problem of identity in psychiatry, the identity of the self, the identity of other persons, and the identity of objects, we must use a conceptual tool which is wider than identity. In order even to describe the development of a reality based on some constancy we need a concept dealing with the organization of stimuli, a concept not taking identity for granted.

[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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