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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.

Astrachan, B.M. (1994). Discussion of “Psychoanalysis Enters Its Second Century” by Robert Michels. Ann. Psychoanal., 22:53-58.

(1994). Annual of Psychoanalysis, 22:53-58

Discussion of “Psychoanalysis Enters Its Second Century” by Robert Michels

Boris M. Astrachan

Some weeks ago, a colleague responded to a lecture in which I explored “changing paradigms and psychiatric practice” (Astrachan, 1992) by asking why, in the face of such significant change, I continued to encourage students to choose psychiatry and why I continued to practice psychotherapy?

The answer, of course, is in the work and in those we serve. While change is inevitable and may be discomforting, the work that we do is useful, it is challenging, it is deeply interesting, and that work which yet will come, dealing with mind and brain together, holds the promise of even greater challenge. In his remarkably optimistic presentation, Dr. Michels examines two general issues, the clinical method of psychoanalysis and collaboration in the field, and in the face of great change he too sees promise. Michels' optimism is predicated on the receptivity of psychoanalysis to change. I am less sanguine about the willingness to change.

I am not a psychoanalyst, and I am thus not competent to discuss issues of psychoanalytic theory, the topic of much of this meeting today. I shall leave comments on Michels'remarks on theory to my codiscussant. After predicting how theory will change, Michels then looks at the social and cultural context of psychoanalysis—or to cut to the chase, who pays and for what services.

Michels challenges analysts themselves about the direction of practice; whether psychoanalysis can continue to pursue what he identifies as both medical and elitist definitions. It may be useful to restructure the argument. Years ago, reflecting on my interest in the nature and structure of psychiatric practice, I began work with Daniel Levinson and David Adler. The approach we developed draws upon sociologic theory and social psychology in order to try to understand psychiatric practice (Astrachan, Levinson, and Adler, 1976; Adler, Levinson, and Astrachan, 1978).

[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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