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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.

Winnicott, D.W. (1965). A Clinical Study of the Effect of a Failure of the Average Expectable Environment on a Child's Mental Functioning. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 46:81-87.

(1965). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46:81-87

A Clinical Study of the Effect of a Failure of the Average Expectable Environment on a Child's Mental Functioning

D. W. Winnicott

In order to illustrate a 6-year-old child's comment on his own infancy I offer an example of what may be called a therapeutic consultation.

The therapeutic consultation is a kind of clinical work which psycho-analysis makes possible. It is a diagnostic interview which is at the same time a piece of deep therapy. It is particularly applicable where a child can (for financial or location reasons) only attend once or perhaps three times; but there is also a place for this kind of work in the child psychiatry of private practice, where there is no team to complicate the procedure.

In this work the motto is: How little need be done? Here use is made of the psychiatrist's position as a subjective object of the child. This condition only lasts for a few interviews, after which the child uses the psychiatrist in a complex and essentially changing way, which the psycho-analyst knows as the transference. The psychiatrist is more free to be natural than he or she is in psycho-analysis proper, and indeed countertransference phenomena are not a threat. This matches the absence of transference movement. The psychiatrist finds it easy to be objective in this work of limited scope.

The aim is to 'unhitch' a developmental catch, so that the environmental influences may resume their function of facilitating the process of maturation in the child. When such a result is not reached then the case changes automatically over into one in which psycho-analysis is appropriate, and indeed necessary.

[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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