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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.

Blum, H.P. Simons, R.C. (1981). Contemporary Problems of Psychoanalytic Technique. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 29:643-658.

(1981). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 29:643-658

Contemporary Problems of Psychoanalytic Technique

Harold P. Blum, M.D. and Richard C. Simons, M.D.

In his introductory remarks, Harold P. Blum emphasized that the psychoanalytic process is a carefully defined and scientifically applied procedure with its own unique rules, methodology, and characteristics. At the same time it is not absolutely and rigidly predictable, since artistic and creative flexibility is so important for the success of any psychoanalytic endeavor. Proper psychoanalytic technique rests upon, derives from, and tends to change in conjunction with psychoanalytic theory, and therefore the practice of psychoanalysis is not immune from the many controversies that have enveloped so many areas of psychoanalytic theory.

Although changes in technique tend to lag behind new theoretical developments, there is a reciprocal relation between technique and theory. In exploring psychoanalytic technique, it is necessary to ask not only how it is to be done, but also what is to be done, why it is to be done, and toward which ends or theoretical goals.

[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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