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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.

Horowitz, M. (1999). Commentary on "Making the Case for Psychoanalytic Therapies in the Current Psychiatric Environment" by John G. Gunderson and Glen O. Gabbard. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(3):710-716.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(3):710-716

Commentary on "Making the Case for Psychoanalytic Therapies in the Current Psychiatric Environment" by John G. Gunderson and Glen O. Gabbard Related Papers

Mardi Horowitz

Gunderson and Gabbard provide us a lucid and compelling evaluation of the dire straits we navigate in this era of third-party payment. In my opinion, people will have to pay for either their own or someone else's psychoanalysis. I do not think a quick fix, organized by any DSM-IV category, will show that insurance companies, managed care organizations, or governments should pay for psychoanalyses because they are cost-effective. Clinical trials at this time are better directed to dynamic and integrative psychotherapies.

The meager resources for scientific study within psychoanalysis should be devoted to doing what is scientifically best—that is, to continue to revise our theory of conscious and unconscious mental processes and how they are involved in symptom formation, character psychopathology, and character growth.

[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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