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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.

Foss, T. Sletvold, H. (2012). Editorial. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 35(1):1.

(2012). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 35(1):1


Torberg Foss and Helge Sletvold

Listening to patients can, at times, be demanding, writing about it, even more so. What is the relationship between working clinically as psychoanalysts and then, writing about this experience afterwards? This question is of particular interest, as we now start our editorial period.

The distance between the fauteuil of the analyst and her writing desk is often seen as hard to breach, as if the two constitute two distinct worlds. At first sight, this would seem to be true; the state of mind of a listening analyst is certainly of a different bent than that of the author of a scientific work. In the latter case, the demands put upon structure and reasoning are naturally rigorous. Still, we may wonder to what extent they do in fact share a common task, in the endeavor of increasing our understanding of what at times seems not understandable.

As editors, we are therefore interested in seeing whether writing is more integral to clinical work, than we often tend to think. These are urgent questions. In justifying the kind of work we are doing in our daily practice, we believe writing about it plays an important rǒle. Justification cannot simply be left to scientific research in the more traditional sense.

Let us therefore introduce two questions, which could be of help in thinking further through these matters. In our psychoanalytic associations, we seem to put much effort into the procedures where candidates present a written work before being admitted as members. These works must be based on recent clinical experience and should also demonstrate an ability to reason more theoretically.

[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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