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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.

Slochower, H. (1964). Applied Psychoanalysis: As a Science and as an Art. Am. Imago, 21(1-2):165-174.

(1964). American Imago, 21(1-2):165-174

Applied Psychoanalysis: As a Science and as an Art

Harry Slochower, Ph.D.

Prior to the advent of psychoanalysis, psychology was generally regarded as a science. But it held this position because it treated the mind as a physiological organ (the brain) which could be directly observed and measured. When psychoanalysis introduced the notion of psychic reality— especially the unconscious—which was not reducible to anatomical, physical and chemical elements, its scientific nature began to be questioned.

Modern criticism of psychoanalysis is focused on its methodology. This is the emphasis in a recent Symposium On Psychoanalysis, Scientific Method and Philosophy. Thus, Ernest Nagel finds psychoanalysis wanting if judged by the criteria of a pure science, chiefly on the ground that he suspects it can be so manipulated as to escape refutation no matter what facts are adduced.

To begin with, it should be noted that Freud was clearly aware of and accepted this criterion. Writing about religious doctrines, he stated: “Of the reality value of most of them, we cannot judge; just as they cannot be proved, neither can they be refuted.” The points raised in the Symposium are met in Robert Waelder's review in which he calls attention that the same objection could be made against scientific theories, such as the theory of immunity.

1 Edited by Sidney Hook. New York University Press, Washington Square 1959. Hereafter, cited as Symposium.

[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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