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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.

Target, M. (2002). Making Psychoanalytic Scholarship Accessible: A Review of the Pep Cd Rom (Archive 1, Versions 2 and 3). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 83(2):547-550.

(2002). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 83(2):547-550

Making Psychoanalytic Scholarship Accessible: A Review of the Pep Cd Rom (Archive 1, Versions 2 and 3)

Review by:
Mary Target

The PEP CD is an extraordinary achievement. Although I had heard about its growing pains for some years, I had had little access to it until asked to do this review, and had not fully appreciated the extent to which it made psychoanalytic scholarship more available. For a start, it is hard to imagine that this little plastic disc houses the full, searchable text of the key psychoanalytic English-language journals from their first issues: as well as this journal and the former International Review of Psycho-Analysis, the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Psychoanalytic Quarterly and the Psychoanalytic Study of the Child. Version 3 has added Psychoanalytic Dialogues and Psychoanalytic Inquiry. However, the disc is much more than the electronic equivalent of a psychoanalytic journal library. The search engine is what really makes the disc a tremendous resource for students, writers and anybody who needs to research any subject in psychoanalysis.

It may be most helpful to take the reader through the experience of using the disc, as a beginner. I am still learning, and sometimes struggling, but I can describe my experience and that of university students of psychoanalytic theory. I particularly wanted the disc for them, I thought it should be ideal for students, in their reading for class, essay writing and dissertation research. So, is it?

To start at the beginning, the installation is relatively simple. The Archive (Version 3) can now be fully downloaded on to the user's hard drive, provided he/she has enough space (about 700 MB).

[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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