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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.

Bird, B. (1978). Moment of Insight: Vignettes from a Psychoanalytic Practice: By Sumner L. Shapiro, M.D. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1976. 119 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 47:317-318.

(1978). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 47:317-318

Moment of Insight: Vignettes from a Psychoanalytic Practice: By Sumner L. Shapiro, M.D. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1976. 119 pp.

Review by:
Brian Bird

I cannot help admiring and even liking this neat little collection of stories about troubled patients. However, I can and should refrain from regarding these stories as representing actual psychoanalaytic work. Rather, they seem to be examples of analytic helpfulness, the outcome no doubt of the author's analytic training, but dependent particularly upon his kindness, patience, and restraint and upon his sensitivity to patients' hidden messages. And, although he tells us the cases are "fictionalized within the bounds of literary license," it is this reader's further opinion that Dr. Shapiro's dramatic ability and his talent for phrase-making have carried him beyond the limits of credibility.

In view of the frequency with which analysts come under fire for stilted writing, it is a pity that I should feel constrained to criticize Dr. Shapiro for being too dramatic. My only justification is that analysis simply is not dramatic in the sense conveyed in this book. Dramatic things not uncommonly do happen in patients' lives during analysis, often as the result of analysis, but to present such events as analysis is misleading. The real drama of analysis, its essence, consists of experiences that take place within the patient's own psychic functioning—experiences that are very private and known only to patient and analyst. Quiet, fleeting, and quickly fading, these experiences are remarkably hard to remember, let alone to describe with any verity to another person.

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