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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.

Schwartz, A. (1992). Prologue. Psychoanal. Inq., 12(3):371-373.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 12(3):371-373


Andrew Schwartz, M.D.

Some 14 years ago now, a preeminent neuroscientist with a longstanding interest in psychoanalysis and derivative psychotherapies reopened in rather dramatic fashion a line of inquiry that Freud early on (1895) had envisioned, explored, but then abandoned as premature. In a 1978 lecture to a Harvard audience, Eric R. Kandel (1979) suggested that because of advances in basic research the time had perhaps arrived to begin again to sketch connections between data relating to information-dependent neural plasticity and the cellular neurobiology of learning, on the one hand, and, on the other, clinical findings about the origin of and the psychological treatment of neurosis and character disorder.

Since the time of Kandel's first formal steps toward interdisciplinary integration, the psychiatric and psychoanalytic literatures have expanded to include many additional attempts to meld insights from laboratory and consulting room. The five essays in this issue of Psychoanalytic Inquiry both review the progress to date and, more relevantly, continue to show how data and concepts from cellular neurobiology, experimental psychology, ethology, and cognitive science may illuminate long-familiar clinical phenomena and observations.

More specifically, David Cooper traces the explicit and implicit role associating learning concepts have had in the theories and procedural recommendations of analysts from Freud onward.

[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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