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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.

Greenacre, P. (1977). The Selected Papers of Ernst Kris: New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1975. 537 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 46:528-531.

(1977). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 46:528-531

The Selected Papers of Ernst Kris: New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1975. 537 pp.

Review by:
Phyllis Greenacre

To review these Selected Papers of Ernst Kris requires, to my mind, not only a thoughtfully appreciative scrutiny of their content, but a measure of historical perspective as well as some knowledge of the man himself. Anyone reading the book with its dust jacket still intact is greeted by a charming picture of Kris looking obliquely downward as if he were about to join the reader's reading. It is a pity that this picture is not reproduced in the book itself as it may be lost sight of when the jacket is worn out and has disappeared. An impression of animated alertness is at once conveyed by the eyes, or the area around them (for the eyes are not clearly seen), and by the tension of the mouth and the tightly clasped hands.

In the 1930's the return of many American students previously in psychoanalytic training in Europe, together with the gradually increasing number of more experienced European analysts fleeing from Hitler, brought increased interest and concern among all analysts here. Soon, formalization of activities in psychoanalytic societies occurred, and training was more clearly defined and organized in associated institutes. Between 1930 and 1933, five institutes were established in the Eastern half of the country. By the end of the 1940's, this number had doubled, and authorized training had reached as far West as California. The general atmosphere among American analysts at this time, as I remember, was one of sympathetic and anxious excitement under the stress of the increasing war threat, together with gratification in being able to help these colleagues and a sense of enrichment in having so many experienced and well-known analysts among us, sometimes mingled with a feeling of guilt that we should profit by others' catastrophe. There were rough spots, too: tensions due to differences in cultural backgrounds and mores, seeming too trivial to be recognized at a time of crisis but operative in unexpected ways. Even the geography of the country was strange and somewhat forbidding to many. If we idealized them and considered them authorities, they were inclined to agree. Inevitably, some degree of mutual disillusionment followed. This was tempered, however, by the realization of the enrichment in training and vision that had been granted us.

[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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