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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.

Dolber, A. Glassman, N.S. Merklin, K. Rosenthal, R. Schuker, E. Feldmann Secrest, M. Frank, K.A. Bernstein, K. (2013). Inside Adoption. Psychoanal. Perspect., 10(1):65-113.

(2013). Psychoanalytic Perspectives, 10(1):65-113

Roundtable

Inside Adoption

Alan Dolber, PhD, Noah S. Glassman, PhD, Kelly Merklin, MA, LMSW, Roger Rosenthal, MA, MSW, Eleanor Schuker, MD, Melissa Feldmann Secrest, LCSW, Kenneth A. Frank, PhD and Kim Bernstein, PhD

ELEANOR: I can start. I'm Ellie Schuker, I'm a psychoanalyst and a Columbia University training analyst and an MD. My husband's a psychologist-analyst, and our becoming an adoptive family has been really a wonderful experience for us; we feel extremely lucky to have had this opportunity. Our daughter is now 23; she's about to go to graduate school in what we joke is “the family business.” She's a wonderful kid, a delightful person. She has always been calm, easy, has good self-esteem; she's even-tempered. She can be outspoken and can criticize her parents. She's excellent in social relations. She has a long-term boyfriend and has good friends. And it's been wonderful. We've been very, very lucky. I'll tell you a little about the sources of our good luck, because I think that may be relevant. Viola Bernard, a Columbia analyst who worked in the adoption field years ago, said to us when we consulted her at a couple of points early in our process, “Adoption is not a problem; it is a solution.” I think that's to be remembered, because I think she was right. It's been a joyous experience for us. And our daughter, who gave permission for me to talk freely today, says adoption is part of who she is, but it's not a central part. For me, being her mother has been an opportunity to parent differently from the way I was parented, and to help my growing child feel safe, secure, in touch with her own feelings and perceptions. It's been a wonderful thing for my husband and me to have happen in life.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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