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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. (1991). Wishes, Needs, and Interpersonal Negotiations. Psychoanal. Inq., 11(1/2):147-170.

(1991). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 11(1/2):147-170

Wishes, Needs, and Interpersonal Negotiations

Stephen A. Mitchell, Ph.D.

Psychoanalysis is in the midst of a crucial transitional phase. We are struggling with the problem of how to assimilate and utilize our past traditions to best serve our current needs. Many of the most important contributions to psychoanalytic theory and clinical practice in the past ten years have been concerned, either explicitly or implicitly, with this broad and complex project of assimilation—the sorting out of what is still useful and the discarding of what no longer applies. The most creative contributions of the past decade along these lines include Gill (1982), Schafer (1983), Pine (1985), Ogden (1986), and Bollas (1987).

Psychoanalysis was invented and has been dominated by Freud, whose awesome genius, range, and impact places him as one of the most important and influential minds of all of western civilization. The classical model, in its intricacy, its elegance, its comprehensive reach into every facet of human endeavors, is truly, even after all these years, a stunning achievement. Yet Freud was inevitably a man of his time.

[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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