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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.

Lee-Messner, H. Stevenson, E. (2014). Hello/goodbye new families: group work with five looked-after siblings in foster care together awaiting a move to separate adoptive families. J. Child Psychother., 40(3):271-286.

(2014). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 40(3):271-286

Hello/goodbye new families: group work with five looked-after siblings in foster care together awaiting a move to separate adoptive families

Heather Lee-Messner and Elizabeth Stevenson

This paper describes group work with five siblings aged between three and nine. They were taken into care following severe abuse involving neglect, physical and emotional abuse. In it, we consider the impact of the losses on the network and the children. We explore how Freud, in his paper ‘Mourning and melancholia’ (1917), and others who built on his work, helped us understand the children’s losses. The sibling group was planned in order to address the children’s need to say goodbye to their birth parents, their foster carers and to each other and to prepare them for their individual separate adoptions. The group ran for 18 months and ended when four children had been placed in their adoptive homes; the last child to be adopted was then seen individually until she was also placed. The group work is described with the use of quotes from sessional material to illuminate the processes for these children in facing their complicated and ambivalent losses, the mourning process and their progress towards becoming individuals in their own right rather than enacting fragmented functional parts/roles on behalf of their sibling group as a whole. Their mourning of the loss of each other was complicated by their earlier reliance on each other to manage the difficulties they had faced when surviving their abusive early lives together.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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