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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.

Scharff, J.S. (2017). Report on the International Congress on Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, “Interpretation in Family and Couple Psychoanalysis” Held in Madrid, 23-26 February, 2017. Cpl. Fam. Psychoanal., 7(2):242-245.

(2017). Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, 7(2):242-245


Report on the International Congress on Couple and Family Psychoanalysis, “Interpretation in Family and Couple Psychoanalysis” Held in Madrid, 23-26 February, 2017

Jill Savege Scharff, M.D.

Following the success of previous International Congresses in couple and family psychoanalysis on the themes of “Global Perspectives” (Buenos Aires in 2015), and (“The Frame” in Washington DC, USA), the Family and Couple Psychoanalysis Committee of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA), this time with the Madrid Psychoanalytic Association, presented an International Congress on “Interpretation in Family and Couple Psychoanalysis,” organised by David Scharff and Elizabeth Palacios. This IPA committee was originated under the leadership of the late Isidoro Berenstein, and is now chaired by David Scharff. The four day Congress was co-sponsored by the Sociedad Española de Psicoanálisis (IPA member), the International Psychotherapy Institute (IPI), the International Association of Couple and Family Psychoanalysis (IACFP), and the Spanish Federation of Psychotherapy Associations (FEAP), and was supported in part by the IPA’s Analytic Practice and Scientific Activities Committee (CAPSA) programme to promote inter-regional analytic dialogue.

The Congress programme featured case presentations, short papers on the role of interpretation in family and couple psychoanalysis using object relations, link theory, and classical Freudian concepts, videos of family therapy, discussant responses, and lots of audience discussion, all with simultaneous Spanish/English translation. Members of the audience came from nineteen countries in the Americas, Australasia, China, Israel, and Europe. The IPA committee spearheads these Congresses annually in various regions to invite a conversation about the development of a multifaceted, internationally informed, psychoanalytic theory of couple and family dynamics and interventions.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the article. PEP-Web provides full-text search of the complete articles for current and archive content, but only the abstracts are displayed for current content, due to contractual obligations with the journal publishers. For details on how to read the full text of 2016 and more current articles see the publishers official website.]

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