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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.

Fajardo, B. (1988). Chapter 6. Constitution in Infancy: Implications for Early Development and Psychoanalysis. Progress in Self Psychology, 4:91-100.

(1988). Progress in Self Psychology, 4:91-100

III Development

Chapter 6. Constitution in Infancy: Implications for Early Development and Psychoanalysis

Barbara Fajardo, Ph.D.

Infant development research has in recent years intrigued psychoanalysts, stimulating new ideas and confronting old assumptions about a “tabula rasa” newborn who is molded by experience and environment. There is now a large body of evidence from developmental studies that support the view of the newborn as a uniquely organized, active participant in its own experience, and even having significant influence in determining the nature of his environment and caretaker responses to him (Scarr and McCartney, 1983). This paper summarizes some preliminary findings of an ongoing research project suggesting that even in the earliest observable preterm development, individual infants make their own unique constitutional contribution to their development and their experience of the environment.

Until very recently, with the books by Lichtenberg (1983) and by Stern (1985), the neonatal period was usually ignored or dismissed by psychoanalysts as prepsychological. Mahler, Pine and Bergman (1975) call this age, to two months postterm, the “autistic period” and bypass it to begin their discussion of development with the “symbiotic period.” They characterize the autistic period by an absence of cathexis and responsiveness to external stimuli.

[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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