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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.

Orgel, S. (2000). Discussion of Dr. Dunn's Case. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 9(4):511-515.

(2000). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 9(4):511-515

Discussion of Dr. Dunn's Case

Shelley Orgel, M.D.

To begin my brief discussion of Dr. Dunn's report, I should like to consider the meaning for Dr. Dunn's patient of the couch and of lying on the couch. This theme runs through all the material, from the beginning right to the end of the second vignette. That the analyst is a candidate, carries particular meanings from the patient's point of view as she begins analysis. This fact gives her a sense of protection. With several people knowing about the analysis, the institute can be invoked to warn the analyst that theirs is not a secret relationship as hers with her father has been (see her references to the social worker and Dr. T, for example). In fact, I suspect that in the beginning, the analyst really became the incestuous father for her, and we learn much later that she had a near delusional certainty that he also would make sexual advances to her. From the analyst's point of view, being a candidate put pressure on him to turn this patient into an acceptable case as quickly as possible in order to graduate. How much this explanation covers or is merged with what countertransference inclinations, we cannot say. I agree with the analyst that his comment to begin the analysis now or sit up and talk about it more, included a challenge or manipulation. It also conveyed his belief, taught as doctrine in those days in some institutes, that analysis begins only when the patient lies on the couch. Additionally, the pressures of being a candidate under the perceived superego authority of the institute with its rules became, I think, an impetus and a rationale for his assuming a parallel role to the patient. Feeling his own choices were somewhat preempted could inevitably limit the analyst's ability to pick up and respond sensitively to what beginning analysis means to any patient, but crucially to this one.


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