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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.

Kelman, H. Horney, K. Ivimey, M. Martin, A.R. Weiss, F.A. (1950). Psychoanalysis and Moral Values: A Symposium Sponsored by the Auxiliary Council to the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. Am. J. Psychoanal., 10(1):63-69.

(1950). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 10(1):63-69

Psychoanalysis and Moral Values: A Symposium Sponsored by the Auxiliary Council to the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis

Harold Kelman, M.D., Karen Horney, M.D., Muriel Ivimey, M.D., Alexander Reid Martin, M.D. and Frederick A. Weiss, M.D.

This symposium, entitled Psychoanalysis and Moral Values, is being conducted under the sponsorship of ACAAP and has been arranged by the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis in response to a most urgent need.

All decent feeling and thinking people who are intently looking for, propounding and fostering solutions to the world's ills come to one conclusion. They all agree that the answer is not in a wall of material protection, in the amassing of armaments alone. Material power alone will not give a rational security, but an illusory safety. From such implements of force, such death-dealing weapons, there is safety neither for military groups nor civilian populations.

Raymond Swing, in his article “Prescription for Survival,” in the February 18, 1950, issue of The Nation, stated that the greatest revolution of our times is not that of atomic fission but “the revolution caused by the fact that there no longer exists effective primary military defense of civilian population and areas against destruction from a foreign enemy.” Mr. Swing pleads for world government on the basis of human and humane moral codes of governance for individual and group benefit. He suggests that America take the lead in attempting to work for world law even though the Russians may reject such a program. For if we say, “‘The effort is not worth making’ … it is to declare that we are absolved from seeking safety for ourselves and all mankind since we have no advance assurance that the Russians will match us in morality and wisdom.

[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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