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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.

Guntrip, H. (1965). Learning from Experience: By W. R. Bion. (London: Heinemann Medical Books, 1962. Pp. xii + 111. 15s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 46:381-385.

(1965). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 46:381-385

Learning from Experience: By W. R. Bion. (London: Heinemann Medical Books, 1962. Pp. xii + 111. 15s.)

Review by:
Harry Guntrip

This is a difficult book and, considering the subject, there is no reason why it should not be. Dr Bion says: 'Unfortunately obscurities exist because of my inability to make them clearer, ' but he is perhaps less than just to himself in this. He is exploring new ground, or rather old ground in a new way. When thinking ventures beyond the familiar frontiers in any subject, it is impossible to make everything clear at first. We have to begin with obscurity and only gradually can it be cleared up. This is likely to be most true when, as here, the old ground to be studied in a new way is the problem of 'thinking' itself, the function through the exercise of which we 'learn by experience'. The philosopher has long been concerned to understand the processes of rational thinking and has evolved the discipline of Logic. The psycho-analyst must go deeper. So long as the patient's thinking is reasonably rational, i.e. not too much influenced by emotions which are not realistically orientated to outer reality, it can be taken for granted in itself, and used as illustrating his problems, external and internal.

Sometimes, however, the patient's basic personality problems are revealed, or embedded in, disorders of thought itself. The logic of the philosopher no longer applies to its understanding. Bion states that 'even psycho-analysts rarely undertake cases of disturbed thought processes'. This is Bion's field of study, and he investigates it in such a way as to try to discover the very origins of the process of 'thinking'. He writes: 'This book deals with emotional experiences that are directly related both to theories of knowledge and to clinical analysis.' In a word, he seeks to go behind rational to irrational thinking, to find out how the thinking function develops ab initio within the whole of the personality. The analysis of disturbed thinking in its beginnings should show how this particular function is related to, and affected by, the total state of the whole psyche, and therefore throw much needed light on the early development of the ego. This is, in the first place, a contribution to the study of the earliest ego-development through the investigation of normal and pathological intellectual development.

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