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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.

(1974). Book Notices. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 22:697-706.

(1974). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22:697-706

Book Notices

BEYOND THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD. By Joseph Goldstein, Anna Freud, Albert J. Solnit. New York: The Free Press, 1973, 170 pp., $7.95.

This is a concise treatise on the legal, psychoanalytic, and psychiatric aspects of the suffering, danger, and damage inflicted on children undergoing placement proceedings in law courts and placement agencies. It is an important, an exciting, and a compassionate book. It is important as the extraordinarily successful collaboration of three distinguished authors, coming from such radically different disciplines as jurisprudence, psychoanalytic child therapy, theory, and research, and child psychiatry. Each of the authors is foremost in his discipline; together they formulated a critique of the existing laws, regulations, and procedures applying to placement. Basing themselves on vast clinical, observational, and codified bibliographic material, they deal with the single items of their critique and formulate a jurisprudential statute, as well as guidelines for its application. Statute and guidelines are inspired by the best established and most advanced clinical experience and research findings of psychoanalysis, psychiatry, and developmental psychology. The reconciliation of these with jurisprudential principles and due process of law results in the statute and guidelines formulated.

This method is important as a model for overcoming the huge communication gap between the nomothetic methods of jurisprudence and the experimental, causal, existential methods of developmental, behavioral, and psychological sciences. The success of the authors' model holds the promise that, in the future, psychoanalysts may attempt comparable applications of their knowledge in other fields.

The book is exciting in its systematic interdisciplinary approach to a vast sector of human suffering that has been too long ignored.

[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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