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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.

Horney, K. (1951). Tenth Anniversary. Am. J. Psychoanal., 11(1):3-4.

(1951). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 11(1):3-4

Tenth Anniversary

Karen Horney, M.D.

Ten years ago a small number of analysts separated from the New York Psychoanalytic Society and founded a new analytic group—the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis—in order to provide for the possibility of training psychiatrists along lines which in many ways deviated from Freud's theories.

The separation evolved from ideological differences which had gradually become too crucial for constructive work. Any cooperative effort, to be productive, needs diversity and unity—the unity consisting of a common base of essential issues and a willingness to explore in a scientific spirit the validity of one's concepts. It must be remembered that all members of the seceding group had been trained in and worked for many years with the traditional concepts of Freud. Thus, a common base existed then and exists today. The recognition of unconscious forces, of dreams being meaningful, the belief in the importance for therapy of the patient-analyst relationship, of recognizing and dealing with the patient's defenses, and the value of “free associations” are all part of a common heritage which forms the groundwork of psychoanalytic theory and method.

In other regards, however, we had in fact lost a common base. Our philosophic premises had changed in decisive ways. These concerned, above all, our belief in the nature of man. Man for us was no longer an instinct-ridden creature, but a being capable of choice and responsibility. Hostility was no longer innate but reactive.

[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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