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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.

Gediman, H.K. (1997). Discussion of Two Articles: “Criteria for Termination” by Steven J. Ellman and “On Long Analyses” by Warren S. Poland. Psychoanal. Psychol., 14(2):211-220.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 14(2):211-220

Discussion of Two Articles: “Criteria for Termination” by Steven J. Ellman and “On Long Analyses” by Warren S. Poland

Helen K. Gediman, Ph.D.

The two speakers who have preceded me in today's symposium approach the question, “How long is too long?” from two different but equally valid angles. Dr. Ellman (1994) thoughtfully reviews and critiques theory-based outcome criteria for achieving specific analytic goals that indicate when an analysis is complete and ready to be terminated. He also proposes his own interesting process-related criteria based on extensive clinical case material. Dr. Poland (this issue) is not concerned here with theories and outcomes, but presents a case and engages us in a delightful personal and philosophical discourse on time, including various influences on the time it takes to complete an analysis. His discourse on the relativity of time as a function of a particular analyst with a particular patient at a particular temporal juncture has more to do with the variations of character, style, and personal tempo than with the more specific outcome and process goals of treatment that Ellman chooses as his focus.

I turn first to Dr. Poland's article (this issue), to read you some remarks he made in the cover letter he wrote to me accompanying his timely submitted manuscript, remarks that I read as a cautionary tale and that inspired my critique of some of his ideas. He wrote: “Generally, I am a hopeless rewriter, one who has to avoid my own published articles lest I try still to refine sentences to improve them.

[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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