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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.

Corbett, K. Goldner, V. (2001). Editors' Note. Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 2(4):345.

(2001). Studies in Gender and Sexuality, 2(4):345

Editors' Note

Ken Corbett, Ph.D. and Virginia Goldner, Ph.D.

With this issue, we inaugurate a special section of the journal focused on the presentation and discussion of clinical case material. Psychoanalysis is held in the tension between theory and the clinic, and we want to capture the sense of vitality that emerges in the uncertainty and unknowing of that space between. Our goal is to create a venue for sharing and thinking about clinical work that fosters reflexivity, that raises rather than answers questions, a space where theory and critique may be sparked and where clinical understanding is potentiated. No matter the direction, our intent is to provide a venue for the serendipity of lively, engaged clinical thinking.

We invite anyone interested in writing up a case or case vignette to email us (Vgoldner@aol.com; kencorbett@earthlink.net). If the submission is suitable for this section, we will organize a group of discussants to to respond and also provide the presenter the opportunity to reply.

The clinical symposium that follows is an expanded version of a panel presented at the conference, “Women and Psychoanalysis: Contemporary Re-visions,” sponsored by the Psychoanalytic Institute of the Postgraduate Center for Mental Health, in affiliation with Studies in Gender and Sexuality, Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, and the Psychoanalytic Studies Program of the New School University, on October 20, 2000.

[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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