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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.

Schlessinger, N. (1997). How Psychotherapy Works: Process and Technique: Joseph Weiss. New York: Guilford, 1993, ix + 224pp., $49.95 (hardcover). Psychoanal. Psychol., 14(2):295-298.

(1997). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 14(2):295-298

How Psychotherapy Works: Process and Technique: Joseph Weiss. New York: Guilford, 1993, ix + 224pp., $49.95 (hardcover)

Review by:
Nathan Schlessinger, M.D.

Weiss sets forth in clear, straightforward language a prescription for psychotherapeutic diagnosis and treatment, focused on the significance of pathogenic beliefs and based on his clinical experience and systematic research on the therapeutic process. The basic theory that he proposes is that psychopathology results from pathogenic beliefs generated in the child's relationships and experiences as he confronts the adaptation to reality. In his view, such beliefs are more fundamental than fantasies. They inhibit and interfere with the pursuit of reasonable goals, disrupt problem solving and erode self-esteem. The purpose of treatment is to disconfirm these beliefs in the relationship with the therapist and enable the patient to pursue his life goals. The patient brings into the treatment an unconscious plan to cope with these beliefs. The therapist's task is to grasp the plan and respond in attitude and behavior, passing the patient's tests, with interpretive interventions that further the goal. The book is replete with many clinical examples to illustrate the process.

Although it may seem from such a bare-bones description that this is a cognitive approach with a heavy emphasis on intellectual insight, that is not the case. The effort to disconfirm pathological beliefs rests in an object relations frame of reference, with sensitive responses in attitude, affect, and interpretation. Dr. Weiss describes in his detailed clinical examples a creative integration of responses consonant with technical principles in the current literature about enactments, self psychology, object relations, etc. In that sense, it might appear to be an eclectic blend. However, the author makes clear that whatever he may have acquired from the field is secondary to the development of his own approach in clinical and research activity.

Weiss describes the therapist as an advocate for the patient rather than a neutral participant observer.

[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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