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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.

Farley, A.J. (1992). Child Care Choices. Balancing the Needs of Children, Families, and Society: By Edward F. Zigler and Mary E. Lang. New York: The Free Press, 1991. 271 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 61:641-644.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 61:641-644

Child Care Choices. Balancing the Needs of Children, Families, and Society: By Edward F. Zigler and Mary E. Lang. New York: The Free Press, 1991. 271 pp.

Review by:
Arthur J. Farley

Reading this book made me want to live in France, or even better, to live in a Scandinavian country like Finland. No, it is not an elegantly written, seductive travelogue with superlatively drawn word pictures. This book tells all one needs to know about early childhood care choices and dilemmas in the United States in a mere two hundred and forty pages. Its scholarly authors add an additional twenty pages of excellent references which are, in fact, worth the price of the book. Why did this book stimulate my longing for distant shores? As the subtitle states, there is an effort to present choices in child care by addressing the needs of all parties concerned, children, families, and society. What an effort at juggling! Each of these players in the early childhood care scene requires an entirely different approach and understanding. Each position is ably presented and this is clearly the strength of the authors' work. Their design of the text assists readers in finding their way through the complex labyrinth of child care in the United States. Unfortunately, one quickly realizes how low on the priority list child care is in this country. The authors briefly describe child care circumstances and solutions in the several countries I touch on above. Their terse descriptions of child care in those countries clearly reflect substantial child care programs with legislated support for working parents.

Now let me illustrate how the reader is assisted by the authors, who are both long-term advocates for children and their families, to better understand our problems in the child care arena.

[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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