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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.

Serenius, M. (1995). Reflections on the Comments by Nina Coltart. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 4(1):50-52.

(1995). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 4(1):50-52

Reflections on the Comments by Nina Coltart Related Papers

Mona Serenius, M.A.

I wish to thank Nina Coltart for her comments on my text. They have inspired me to further thought and further studies of the literature and given me a more profound insight into some unconsicous processes.

She prompted me to read or reread with greater attention some of the psychoanalytical texts by Bollas (1, 2) and Winnicott (3) which she mentions as relevant in this context. They have in many ways increased my personal understanding of my story, but I leave it to the professional analysts to make the theoretical interpretations.

Nina Coltart's request, in a letter to me, that I elaborate on a sentence in my first version of the paper—on the scientific reports on Finnish war-children being “biased and controversial”—as well as her focusing on my uncertainty about the sigificance of my own experiences and feelings in a broader perspective—an uncertainty I have in common with many warchildren—has, however, given me new insights which I would like to share with the reader.

The stories about the experiences of warchildren and the consequences of the separations are vastly different depending on the the perspective applied: that of the adult—governed by his own outer, social motives (admittedly very relevant in times of war) and perhaps by a vague inner feeling of guilt—seeing and judging on the basis of outer manifestations only and closing the eyes to all signs of inner disturbances; or that of the child, finally acquiring a voice and a language to express the pain that went on inside and the permission and courage to uncover the lies and the deceipt consciously or unconsciously used by some of the responsible adults “to protect the child”.

[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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