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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.

Coen, S.J. (2008). Examining the Analyst at Work: A review of Psychoanalytic Collisions, by Joyce Anne Slochower. Mahwah, NJ: The Analytic Press, 2006, 200 pp.. Contemp. Psychoanal., 44(3):480-485.

(2008). Contemporary Psychoanalysis, 44(3):480-485

Examining the Analyst at Work: A review of Psychoanalytic Collisions, by Joyce Anne Slochower. Mahwah, NJ: The Analytic Press, 2006, 200 pp.

Review by:
Stanley J. Coen, M.D.

Joyce slochower is an excellent psychoanalytic writer. This book describes her evolution as a sensitive, self-reflective, thoughtful psychoanalytic clinician and writer. Focusing on the inevitable collisions between opposing aims in analytic work—within ourselves and with our patients— she gets right down to what we find difficult in the treatment of more troubled patients. Her earlier writing made a valuable contribution to our appreciation of the moments when holding and containment facilitate therapeutic work by minimizing the patient's experience of the analyst's subjective presence (Slochower, 1991, 1992, 1996). I have found her work on the attunement to the analytic provision required by difficult patients very helpful in treating them. Of course, in our current psychoanalytic climate, some relationalists could object to what might appear as a challenge to the analyst's intersubjective involvement in therapeutic work, which it is not.

Slochower is helping us to think about what does and does not work most efficaciously with our most difficult patients. Sheldon Bach (2006) tackles similar problems admirably. Some analysts, not even Freudians, can keep insisting that interpretation is always the treatment for patients' distress. A number of analysts of different persuasions (Killingmo, 1989, 1995; Sanville, 1991; Rayner, 1992; Ghent, 1992, 1993; Meares, 1993; Meares and Anderson, 1993; Akhtar, 1994; Teicholz, 1995; Coen, 2005; Rustin, unpublished) have contended that interpretation intensifies separateness between patient and analyst, which is not what more difficult patients need at the start of treatment.

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