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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.

Pao, P. (1983). Therapeutic Empathy and the Treatment of Schizophrenics. Psychoanal. Inq., 3(1):145-167.

(1983). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 3(1):145-167

Therapeutic Empathy and the Treatment of Schizophrenics Related Papers

Ping-Nie Pao, M.D.

The Tao that can be told of is Not the Absolute Tao; The Names that Can be Given are not Absolute Names

Nameless is the Origin of Heaven and Earth; Naming is the Mother of all Things

—Lao-tze, Tao-te-ching

Lao-tze points to a basic human dilemma—in essence, that processes and changes are difficult to describe precisely. In talking about them, names must be assigned but those assigned names often do not fully or absolutely describe what we intend to describe.

In the analytic situation it is imperative that the analyst understand the patient. It is generally accepted that the analyst comes to understand the patient through the use of empathy. What, then, is empathy? Obviously, empathy denotes a process. And, as the name of a process, “empathy” may have the limitations Lao-tze articulated; it may not fully or absolutely describe what we intend to describe. Fliess (1942), one of the first analysts who attempted to define empathy, envisioned it as a process in which the analyst makes a “trial identification” with the patient. But does trial identification really occur? If it does, how does the analyst make this trial identification with the patient? While listening to a patient, does an analyst say to himself: “If my father did this or that to me, as the patient's father has done to him, I would experience such and such.

[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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