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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.

Grinker, R.R., Sr. (1966). “Open-System” Psychiatry. Am. J. Psychoanal., 26(2):115-128.

(1966). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 26(2):115-128

“Open-System” Psychiatry

Roy R. Grinker, Sr., M.D.


When I left chicago in 1932 to undertake a personal psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud, I knew that Dr. Karen Horney had been invited by Dr. Franz Alexander to join the faculty of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis. It was, however, only during my analysis that I learned that profound differences had developed between Alexander and Horney, which culminated in her departure from the Chicago Institute and the Midwest after only two years. When I reported this to Freud he stated bluntly that he was hardly surprised.

Later when I met Dr. Horney in New York on my way back to Chicago, she was very friendly to me and evinced a great deal of interest in my experiences with Freud. Unfortunately, I did not have much time to communicate with her, nor during the remainder of her life did I take the opportunity to discuss Freud in relation to her own organization founded in 1941. It was natural that I should have had, at that time as a neophyte, the usual Freudian attitude toward the so-called splinter groups which had separated from the main body of psychoanalysis.

Indeed, when I became aware of the serious controversies among psychoanalysts taking place in Chicago later, I experienced anxiety about the possibility of the main body of the Chicago Institute splitting into an “orthodox” and a “liberal” group. As I look back now, it would have been far better if such a split along ideological lines had occured, since after Alexander's retirement from Chicago, the forces which he temporarily and successfully controlled, attained power, and Chicago has now only a classical psychoanalytic institute.

As all of you realize, it takes a very long time to become thoroughly educated in any special branch of knowledge and probably analytic training requires more time than any other scientific or cultural field. The completion of formal education, however, does not make an analyst, for it takes many years to acquire enough analytic experience to the point where one feels at home with unconscious mechanisms and defenses. It likewise takes a long time, for that matter much longer, to attain a perspective on the various aspects of analytic theory and its metapsychology. It took me many years before I could begin to grasp the total gestalt of analysis and the significance of so-called neo-Freudians in the total field.


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