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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.

Ekstein, R. (1979). My Analysis with Freud. Reminiscences: By A. Kardiner, M.D. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1977. 123 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 48:319-320.

(1979). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 48:319-320

My Analysis with Freud. Reminiscences: By A. Kardiner, M.D. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., Inc., 1977. 123 pp.

Review by:
Rudolf Ekstein

Sigmund Freud died almost forty years ago, and the number of those who knew him personally, studied under him, or were analyzed by him grows smaller and smaller. Abram Kardiner is one of the few who form a living bridge to those days and can describe at first hand Freud's influence on American psychoanalysis and psychiatry, including his impact on the first American psychoanalytic institute in New York City. This publication of Kardiner's reminiscences is part of a larger autobiography which has been compiled from tapes. It is expected that this oral history will soon be made generally available.

I found Kardiner's memories of his analysis in the early 'twenties, combined with his recent perspectives on psychoanalysis, particularly worthwhile. We become aware of Freud's powerful impact on his students at that time, an impact limited to some degree by Freud's choice of confining his analyses of students, the forerunners of later training analyses, to six months. The book also gives us insight into the kind of disciples who moved from America to Europe in order to become acquainted with Freud's teachings and to dedicate themselves to psychoanalysis. They were indeed pioneers, many of them highly individualistic people, newcomers to a social scene who struggled a long time to become a part of an organized group. When they first became students of Freud, they were really blind followers. Later they frequently rebelled against the "orthodoxy" of their earlier unqualified adherence and made important contributions of their own.

[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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