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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.

Abse., S. (2011). A Letter from the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships (TCCR), London, UK.. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 1(1):139-142.

(2011). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 1(1):139-142

A Letter from the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships (TCCR), London, UK.

Contributed By Susanna Abse.

‘Where there is an open mind, there will always be a frontier’. (Charles F. Kettering)

Dear Colleagues,

We are flattered and pleased to be asked to elucidate to an international audience the most recent developments and pre-occupations of our organisation.

The Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships was founded in 1948, amid the growing post-war concerns about the breakdown of relationships and the resulting consequences for families and the wider society. Interestingly, this concern about family breakdown is once again very much in the foreground of societal concerns and government policy, and we know that is also true in both the USA and Australia. Growing evidence about the long-term psychological and social costs of disrupted and poor quality family relationships is at the core of this concern; of course, psychoanalytic practitioners have had empirical evidence of these effects for a very long time.

TCCR was founded to investigate and understand more about family process, with a particular focus on the couple relationship and undertook this task with a great deal of rigour and vigour. Collaborating with psychoanalysts working in The Tavistock Clinic, the organisation set out to develop and systematise ideas and theories about the nature of the adult relationship. Early research focused on the dynamic processes, not only between families, but also between organisations and front-line workers and the clients they served. Action research projects during these early years looked at key social issues, such as the transition to parenthood, the work of social services departments, and the impact of unemployment on families.

[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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