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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.

Britton, R. (1992). Keeping Things in Mind. New Library of Psychoanalysis, 14:102-113.

(1992). New Library of Psychoanalysis, 14:102-113

Keeping Things in Mind Book Information Previous Up Next

Ronald Britton

This chapter is about Wilfred Bion's concept of the ‘container’ and the ‘contained’. He derived this notion from his clinical work, particularly with psychotic and borderline psychotic patients, and applied it in a very general way to individual and group behaviour. I want to approach my discussion of his concept through its clinical manifestations in analysis, and I will begin with a description of a patient who resembles those who provoked the idea in Bion's mind.

Miss A, as I shall call my patient, was compelled by threats from within herself to empty out her mind of the thoughts she was having. This she did by repeatedly flushing them down the lavatory. (This patient is also described above in Chapter 3.) There were days when she did this so often that she broke the mechanism. By the time she would tell me about this in her session she no longer knew what these thoughts were. The process, however, of emptying out was so severe that she felt empty of any ideas and any mental life; she complained of feeling ‘unreal’. The quality the outside world acquired in this process was a sense of menace. As a consequence of this mental evacuation of ‘something bad’, she found it impossible to travel outside an imaginary boundary, which roughly coincided with the outskirts of London where she lived. Thus she was menaced from within by an inner presence or from without by unspecified dangers. If she took things in and held them in her mind she was in danger; if she expelled them from her mind she produced a menacing outside world. She could neither introject nor project without producing a fearful situation.

Her dilemma was epitomized in a memory she had of an experience she had had during the Second World War, which she often repeated to me; it functioned as a sort of paradigm, or, as Bion might have said, ‘a configuration’.

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