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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.

Hamilton, G.V. (1933). The Blackboard as an Analytic Accessory. Psychoanal. Rev., 20(4):388-400.

(1933). Psychoanalytic Review, 20(4):388-400

The Blackboard as an Analytic Accessory

G. V. Hamilton, M.D.

My acceptance of Freud's theory of mind came slowly. I now know that over a period of nearly two decades I was unconsciously resisting its implications and that facts which seemed to support alternative theories were to me what a favorable new witness is to an attorney for the defense. This was apparent in most of my publications and was pointed out by various critics, hence the present report of an experiment in analytic technique is likely to be regarded as reflecting a continuation of the old resistance unless its purpose is clearly understood in advance. To put it briefly, since July, 1928, I have been steadily occupied with experiments in analytic method which have been aimed at overcoming some of the difficulties which stand in the way of proceeding with certain types of patients in accordance with the technical principles laid down by Freud. These principles have been validated by years of therapeutic work on his part and that of his students, but essential adherence to them is not easy unless one can be fairly selective in accepting cases for analysis.

When some experience as an analysand in 1925 made it emotionally possible for me to begin what has become a final shift from psychiatric behaviorism to psychoanalysis the corresponding shift in therapeutic method confronted me with problems which doubtless enter into the experience of every analyst who cannot wholly escape the obligations of a general psychiatric practice. The first of these difficulties grew out of the circumstance that good technique requires the analyst to limit his own verbal interferences to the minimum essential to reasonable progress with the patient. Exclusively analytic clinicians may not realize how seriously this difficulty handicaps their more broadly functioning colleagues. The economic value of habit holds in general psychiatric work as it does in all other vocations, and the habits we develop in dealing with nonanalytic cases tend to make poor analysts of us.

[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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