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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.

Dahlberg, C.C. (1965). A Survey of the Lsd Question:—A Review of Four Books. Contemp. Psychoanal., 2(1):62-82.

(1965). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 2(1):62-82

A Survey of the Lsd Question:—A Review of Four Books

Review by:
Charles Clay Dahlberg, M.D.

SIDNEY COHLN, M.D.: The Beyond Within. New York: Atheneum, 1964. 268 pages, $5.75.

RICHARD BLUM AND ASSOCIATES: Utopiates. New York: Atherton Press, 1964. 303 pages, $8.00.

DAVID SOLOMON (ED.): LSD—The Consciousness-Expanding Drug. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1964. 273 pages, $5.95.

TIMOTHY LEARY, Ph.D., RALPH METZNER, Ph.D., RICHARD ALPERT, Ph.D.: The Psychedelic Experience. New Hyde Park, New York: University Books, 1964. 159 pages, $5.00.

ASIDE FROM THE NEOPHYTE thrill-seeker, the curious and the illinformed, there are two separate streams of people who seek out the psychotherapist known for his experience with LSD. Those belonging to the first group have a long history of dabbling with other drugs, Zen, Yoga, dianetics and other quick cures for their mental malaise. They are not likely to give up their panacea-search for the hard, tedious work of psychotherapy.

The second is a group that we must take more seriously. These people have frequently made attempts to get help from psychotherapists of many schools, over many years, with little success.

[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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