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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.

Mitchell, S.A. (1988). The Intrapsychic and the Interpersonal: Different Theories, Different Domains, or Historical Artifacts?. Psychoanal. Inq., 8(4):472-496.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 8(4):472-496

The Intrapsychic and the Interpersonal: Different Theories, Different Domains, or Historical Artifacts?

Stephen A. Mitchell, Ph.D.

I am relieved to have been asked to discuss the relationship between the “intrapsychic” and the “interpersonal” from a Sullivanian perspective, rather than the Sullivanian perspective, since Sullivan's work lends itself to many different readings, and various contemporary writers of often dramatically different points of view all identify themselves as interpersonalists and/or Sullivanians. Therefore, I would like to abandon at the start the claim that the following paper is representative in any sense. Rather, I have two more modest goals: first, to consider the manner in which Sullivan himself might have thought about the relation between the “intrapsychic” and the “interpersonal,” to reconstruct the context and internal logic of his approach; and second, to consider this question through more contemporary interpersonal eyes, my own, taking advantage of the hindsight which nearly 40 years of psychoanalytic thinking has provided since Sullivan's death.


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