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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.

(1925). Psychology In Theory And Application. By Horace W. Dresser, Ph.D. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1924. Cloth. Pp. 727.. Psychoanal. Rev., 12(1):123-124.

(1925). Psychoanalytic Review, 12(1):123-124

Psychology In Theory And Application. By Horace W. Dresser, Ph.D. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1924. Cloth. Pp. 727.

In preparing this book the author has attempted to present in a coordinated way the several divisions and applications of the entire subject of scientific psychology, in order to meet the need which has arisen because of the very rapid advance in knowledge of this special subject and of its allied sciences.

Since psychology or the study of the mind is of general interest, in fact, is of most vital concern to man, this sort of coördination should meet with approval; particularly when it is not approached from a special partisanship point of view. Such a book should be suitable as a guide for teachers and students in general psychology, psychology of education, and in so-called applied psychology where ethics, “social sciences” and industrial relations are considered.

The book has been written in five parts. Part one deals in part with brief general descriptions of the various types of “schools” of psychology, elementary principles, principles of habit formation, affection and emotion, association and memory, temperament and characters and the nature of thought processes, most of which is material taken from the older psychology and is therefore of historical interest only. The liberal references to the literature will offer the student sufficient supplementary reading.

[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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