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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.

Hardin, H.T. Hardin, D.H. (2004). On: Miss A. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(6):1509-1511.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(6):1509-1511

On: Miss A

Harry T. Hardin and Daniel H. Hardin

Dear Sirs,

On the basis of our research over many years, we propose alternative hypotheses for understanding the patient described in the Fonagy et al. (2004) ‘Analyst at work’ article. We believe that he and the commentators have overlooked crucial aspects of the early caregiving Miss A received which underlie the development of her personality. Fonagy's patient, the eldest of four daughters close to one another in age, was reared primarily by a nanny and a housekeeper. In three papers (Hardin, 1985; Hardin and Hardin, 2000, 2004), we note that children reared by nannies or other primary caregivers experience them as de facto mothers. Almost invariably these children suffer losses of their caregivers, and often, in turn, of their replacements. We observe that these traumatic events lead to the development of inordinate fear of loss, separation anxiety and the inability to become intimate with others. These patients have difficulty trusting others; they are uncertain about their own perceptions and, in treatment as in life, need constant validation. They are disposed to depression and to restricted affective and social lives.

In all likelihood Miss A experienced such losses that became deeply repressed. She remembers others, designated as ‘catastrophes’, because of sharing of nanny and housekeeper with interminable newborn siblings. We believe that losses were major traumas in her infancy and childhood; their developmental consequences may be discerned throughout Fonagy's report.

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