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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.

Stepansky, P.E. (1990). Anna Freud A Biography by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl New York: Summit Books, 1988, 527 pp., $24.95. Psa. Books, 1(1):1-10.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Books, 1(1):1-10

Anna Freud A Biography by Elisabeth Young-Bruehl New York: Summit Books, 1988, 527 pp., $24.95

Review by:
Paul E. Stepansky, Ph.D.

Anna Freud is that paradox among psychoanalysts: a personage at once historical and contemporary whose lifecycle gathers into its folds the origins and early development of analysis, the theoretical trials and institutional tribulations of the second and third generations of analytic history, and the challenges and controversies—clinical, organizational, and social—that continue to shape analytic discourse into the present. It is because she is Freud's daughter and her life not only spans, but has helped shape, so many decades of analytic history, that the temptation is great to frame her life in terms of her father's mission. Taken in this sense, Miss Freud's life takes as its major signposts her unswerving devotion to her father and his work, her careful extensions of this work in ways agreeable to him, and her cautionary attentiveness to the organizational growth of psychoanalysis in the decades following his death. Add to these signposts Miss Freud's analysis by her father, her presumably chaste maidenhood in the decades thereafter, her lifelong attachment to Dorothy Burlingham and the Burlingham family, her selfless devotion to Freud following the onset of his cancer in 1923, her protracted dialogue with Melanie Klein over the foundations and technique of child analysis, and her pioneering applications of analysis to child care during World War II and thereafter, and one knows Anna Freud as most analysts have been content to know her.

It is because it is so natural to view Miss Freud's life in just this way that analysts and scholars alike owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Elisabeth Young-Bruehl.

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