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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.

Kennedy, H. (1983). Anna Freud—1895-1982. Psychoanal Q., 52:501-506.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 52:501-506

Anna Freud—1895-1982

Hansi Kennedy

Anna Freud died on October 9th, 1982, in her home in Maresfield Gardens. She had been ill for some months and had borne the effects of her declining health and physical strength with great fortitude. It seemed natural that in dying, as in living, her closeness to her father should be in evidence. Just as Freud had done forty-three years earlier in the closing weeks of his life, she enjoyed the beauty and tranquility of the garden as she rested there with her chow, Jofie, by her side.

No doubt much will still be written and conjectured about Anna Freud's relationship to her father by others; but she considered this a private matter and not one of significance or concern to the serious student of psychoanalysis. Moreover, she was in many ways a private person who did not readily discuss personal matters with colleagues. She was never reticent, however, in referring to her father's views or in quoting a telling comment or witty remark of his when it was of scientific or clinical relevance. When, for example, the problem of a Clinic patient's persistent request to change his therapist was once extensively debated at a meeting, she listened silently and eventually focused the discussion on the real issue with a charming anecdote. She described how, as a young analyst, she shared a waiting-room with her father and soon discovered that all her patients wanted to be seen by him. When she complained to him about this, he smilingly told her that he had similar difficulties with his patients who all wanted to be treated by her. Stories of this kind not only gave one a glimpse of the kind of psychoanalytic tutorship Freud had provided for his daughter. They also allowed one to experience a personal link with him.

[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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