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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.

Wallerstein, R.S. (1999). Commentary on "Politique de la Psychanalyse Face a La Dictature et a la Torture: N'en Parlez a Personne (Psychoanalysis, Dictatorship, and Torture: Don't Talk About it)" by Helena Besserman Vianna. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(3):965-973.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(3):965-973

Commentary on "Politique de la Psychanalyse Face a La Dictature et a la Torture: N'en Parlez a Personne (Psychoanalysis, Dictatorship, and Torture: Don't Talk About it)" by Helena Besserman Vianna Related Papers

Robert S. Wallerstein

I deem it unfortunate that Helen Besserman Vianna's important book, documenting the scandalously unethical behavior of Brazilian training analyst Leão Cabernite in defending and covering up the behavior of his analytic candidate, Amilcar Lobo, an army psychiatrist complicit in the torture of political prisoners at a Rio de Janeiro military detention center (with the job there of ensuring that torture victims not die so that interrogations might continue), and documenting as well her own courageous role in publicly exposing Cabernite's shocking behavior even at risk of his denouncing her to the military dictatorship, should be so marred by Besserman Vianna's misunderstanding and distortion of the role played by the IPA and its officers over its quarter-century involvement in this affair and its aftermath. These distortions are carried over into Janine Puget's otherwise valuable review bringing this important matter to the attention of the American psychoanalytic world.

In its January 1999 issue, the British Psychoanalytical Society Bulletin carried an even longer and equally laudatory review of the Besserman Vianna book by Peter Hildebrand. Unhappily, that review article carried over the same misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the IPA role, and I, as an honorary member of the British Society, a former IPA president (1985-1989), and someone who had been thrust into intimate relation to the totally disrupted functioning of the Rio de Janeiro Psychoanalytic Society consequent to the turmoil there over the “Cabernite Affair,” was asked to comment on the Hildebrand article. I did so, and my commentary, approximately equal in length to the review itself, was published in the same issue of the Bulletin. I should add here that I was not a special target of Besserman Vianna's (or Hildebrand's) attack: it was rather other IPA presidents—Serge Lebovici (1977-1981), and Otto Kernberg (1997-2001)—whom Hildebrand took so sharply to task for what he took to be their reprehensible roles in relation to the Brazilian situation.

[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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