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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.

Cornwell, J. (1983). Crisis and Survival in Infancy. J. Child Psychother., 9(1):25-31.

(1983). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 9(1):25-31

Crisis and Survival in Infancy

Joan Cornwell

Mrs. Bick described a primitive state of mind in which there is no sense of an internal space, so the holding together of the parts of the personality occurs externally by means of a fragile psychic skin, equated with the physical skin. The baby in this state of mind, feels himself to be in constant danger of spilling out through a breach in his skin. Such a spilling out is experienced as a liquefaction and loss of the self, a pouring out into space, into nothingness. This state of mind, which in the young baby is present prior to the use of projective and introjective mechanisms, is reverted to, at a later age, under conditions of stress. It is almost invariably experienced to a greater or lesser degree in a mother following the birth of her first baby.

The birth precipitates in the mother a sudden and massive loss of identity. She is no longer the woman she was before the birth. She does not know who she is, having not yet acquired her new identity as mother. Her bewilderment and aching sense of loss are joined to a realisation of her total responsibility for this live helpless baby, despite feeling utterly incompetent for the task. She herself feels like a new born baby, suddenly vulnerable, exposed, unheld.

The father too, experiences this same loss of adult identity. He may feel like a lost little boy, faced with a situation beyond his competence. His wife also may be lost to him, as her attention seems entirely taken up with the new baby, or her own distress. In like fashion, the identity of the first born child is shattered by the arrival of the next baby.

[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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