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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.

Schlesinger, L.B. (1989). Psychological Testing from Early Childhood Through Adolescence. A Developmental and Psychodynamic Approach: By Miriam G. Siegel, Ph.D. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1987. 529 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 58:653-655.

(1989). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 58:653-655

Psychological Testing from Early Childhood Through Adolescence. A Developmental and Psychodynamic Approach: By Miriam G. Siegel, Ph.D. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1987. 529 pp.

Review by:
Louis B. Schlesinger

Miriam Siegel has made a real contribution toward the comprehensive psychological evaluation of children and adolescents. This is not just another book on psychological testing. It is not a cookbook presentation on how to administer, score, and interpret tests; nor is it simply a reporting of various interesting cases. Most important, it is not a book jammed with experimental/research findings of little relevance to the practitioner. Instead, Siegel shares with the reader, in a very practical way, her vast knowledge and experience in testing children and adolescents.

The word practical cannot be overemphasized in describing this book. For example, at one point Siegel advises some modification in the standard (or traditional) administration of the Rorschach. In testing young children, she recommends that the inquiry immediately follow the child's response so that the patient's reasoning is not lost. By this method, the emphasis is on understanding the child, as opposed to rigid adherence to strict test procedures, which is so often done by the inexperienced evaluator with a psychometrician mentality. At another point, the author aptly warns the psychologist that there is no need to explain everything: "Each twitch and giggle cannot be endowed with deep dynamic significance; fleeting moments of sadness or suspicion do not necessarily signify a depressive or paranoid reaction" (p. 15). In conjunction with Siegel's practical approach, a very sophisticated psychodynamic and developmental framework serves as a common denominator throughout all of her analysis and interpretation of test findings.

[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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