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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.

F., G. (1956). The Personality of the Young Child. An Introduction for Puzzled Parents: By Margaret A. Ribble, M.D. New York: Columbia University Press, 1955. 126 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 25:596-597.

(1956). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 25:596-597

The Personality of the Young Child. An Introduction for Puzzled Parents: By Margaret A. Ribble, M.D. New York: Columbia University Press, 1955. 126 pp.

Review by:
G. F.

Dr. Ribble's book is a remarkable brief review of the development of the young child. It resembles in content and purpose Anna Freud's Psychoanalysis for Teachers and Parents but devotes more attention to the development of the child's ego, of its social relations, and of its awareness of the world. On nearly every page occurs a remark or observation of challenging originality. For example, Dr. Ribble is describing a child's history:

The insistent crying which followed over a period of six months indicates some physiological difficulty with respiration which is sometimes seen in young infants who are suddenly weaned and who have insufficient stimulus from parental care (p. 85).

One would like to know more about this observation by Dr. Ribble. Elsewhere she expresses an idea in a way that stimulates the reader to think of an old fact in a new way:

Not being identical with both parents is a difficult idea to tolerate because it implies some defect in the child itself (p. 73).

Vital and important functions carry a charge of pleasure energy which tends to insure their repeated performance. When parents set themselves against this natural force they are opposing a part of the life instinct (p. 25).

Constantly in this book one gets the impression that Dr. Ribble has by keen observation and reflection discovered things about children of which she gives us no more than a tantalizing glimpse.

[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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