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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.

Thomson, J. (2005). Willoughby, Roger. Masud Khan: The Myth and the Reality. London: Free Association Books. 2005. Pp. ix + 307. Hbk. £25.00.. J. Anal. Psychol., 50(2):254-257.

(2005). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50(2):254-257

Willoughby, Roger. Masud Khan: The Myth and the Reality. London: Free Association Books. 2005. Pp. ix + 307. Hbk. £25.00.

Review by:
Jean Thomson

Masud Khan, who became one of the many famous names in psychoanalysis, arrived in England from India/Pakistan in 1946 when he was 22. He had been accepted for training at the Institute of Psycho-Analysis (IPA) at a time when it was beginning its post-war innovative period, and he was one of its influential figures as training analyst and librarian/editor until his mental and physical health deteriorated from about 1975, following divorce from his second wife, Svetlana Beriosova. From then onwards until his death in June 1989 he became not so much famous as notorious and, sadly, this is how he is mostly remembered. In his latter years, he drank heavily, became behaviourally arrogant, lax and aggressive, eventually developed cancer of the larynx, and was finally forced by scandal to resign from the Institute two years before he died, aged 65. His personal history took place amidst the intellectual flowering in psychoanalytic thinking from the end of the Second World War and this subtly constructed biography shows how Masud Khan's (self-)destruction can be imagined to have evolved out of his experiences as an Asian in a British-dominated world.


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