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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.

Brown, J.F. (1941). General Psychology: From the Personalistic Standpoint: By William Stern. Translated by Howard Davis Spoerl. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1938. 589 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 10:167-167.

(1941). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 10:167-167

General Psychology: From the Personalistic Standpoint: By William Stern. Translated by Howard Davis Spoerl. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1938. 589 pp.

Review by:
J. F. Brown

The general trend in modern academic psychology is toward systematic positions which are much more readily reconcilable with psychoanalysis than the early ones. The problems of personality as an organized totality or gestalt plays an increasingly important rôle not only in systematic presentations but in the fields chosen for experimental research. The personalistic psychology of the late Professor William Stern has an important place in this movement. The central concept of psychology to him was that of the person, and his presentation of psychology followed from this central concept. His three modalities of life, vitality, experience, and introception, are rather closely related to what the analyst knows as the id, ego and superego functions.

The present volume is a textbook of general psychology. It follows the usual pattern. Part one presents the methodological bias and general outline; Parts two to six deal in order with perception, memory, thought, behavior, and feeling. The factual material consists of that usually contained in such texts. The interpretation is from the personalistic standpoint. Direct references to and criticism of psychoanalysis are relatively rare, but those given are fairly accurate and tempered. The psychoanalyst who wishes to orient himself in the field of general psychology would find himself more at home with this text than with most of those now current.

The book is a translation of Allgemeine Psychologie auf personalistischer Grundlage, a work which was well known to German psychologists. In this edition some passages have been omitted and some additional material for American psychologists added. The bibliography has been reworked with the American reader in mind. The work reads very smoothly for an English translation of a German scientific treatise.

[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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