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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.

Fonagy, P. Denis, P. Hoffman, I.Z. (2004). Miss A. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(4):807-814.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(4):807-814

Miss A Related Papers Language Translation

Peter Fonagy, Paul Denis and Irwin Z. Hoffman

Miss A was an attractive and vivacious 22-year-old, totally immersed in the wake of turbulent adolescence and the developmental tasks of young adulthood. She behaved somewhat immaturely for her age. She came to her first session dressed as if for a job interview. Although cheerful and highly eloquent, her anxiety to be accepted was immediately apparent. We made contact at a superficial level; she told me of her very high achievements, both sporting and academic, but of no sadnesses or disappointments. She painted an idealised picture of a perfect past but mentioned no close friendships, or any appropriate sexual relationship, although I later learned that her relationship difficulties were her primary reason for coming to me. Still, there was little to indicate, in this initial interview, any serious or deep-seated disturbance. She seemed pleasant, energetic and engaging. I was struck by her ambitions to achieve prominence in the corporate world, verging on grandiosity, but felt that given her past remarkable achievements, and her age, this was understandable.

She was the eldest of four daughters, all quite close in age. Her father was a self-made property developer, her mother an ambitious young courtroom advocate who was preoccupied with establishing a remarkable public career through much of Miss A's early childhood, leaving her in the care of a nanny and a housekeeper. Although Miss A was extremely successful at school and was a champion swimmer, she had some difficulties in finding friends even as a child and was offered an educational psychological consultation by her parents which she refused. At university she made a number of spectacularly unsuccessful relationships, both sexual and social.

Her failure to establish a successful relationship, and her sense of isolation, eventually drove her into therapy. After unsuccessful attempts with a college counsellor, a clinical psychologist and an organic psychiatrist, she found her way to her first analyst. He helped her with her anxiety about her exams, but he chose to address only a selected set of issues as their relationship could only continue for two years, and she made no progress in terms of finding more appropriate relationships.

[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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