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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.

Saul, L.J. (1944). Emotion in Man and Animal: By Paul Thomas Young. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1943. 422 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 13:105-106.

(1944). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 13:105-106

Emotion in Man and Animal: By Paul Thomas Young. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1943. 422 pp.

Review by:
Leon J. Saul

This is a textbook intended for students who have had an introductory course in psychology. It is based on the literature of academic psychology and also on related physiological research, such as that of Cannon and Bard. It digests this very extensive literature and reviews simply and clearly many of the theories of emotion. The author proceeds upon the definition of emotion as a disruption or disorganization of the individual. In other words, when he speaks of emotion he has in mind acute emotional states of sufficient intensity to interfere with normal integrated functioning. The obvious difficulties in this view are resolved to some extent, but not fully, by the concepts of attitude and motivation.

The book is a relatively thorough and well-balanced review of the literature of academic psychology, rather than a presentation of the vital emotional life of man. It may be pedagogically justifiable to limit the presentation to such contributions, but it detracts from the grasp of the subject to omit all reference to the literature of dynamic psychiatry, psychoanalytic or otherwise. Psychiatry has developed so far that several of the academic discussions in the book sound quite outmoded. No matter how scientific the comparison of theories, the cardinal and central point of the scientific method is the observation of the phenomenon to be studied.

[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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