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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.

Mead, M. (1957). Changing Patterns of Parent-Child Relations in an Urban Culture. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 38:369-378.

(1957). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 38:369-378

Changing Patterns of Parent-Child Relations in an Urban Culture

Margaret Mead

It gives me great pleasure to acknowledge the honour of being asked to give the Ernest Jones Lecture for 1957, as a recognition of the long and fruitful cooperation between cultural anthropology and psycho-analysis. Throughout the last thirty years the two approaches to the study of human behaviour have enriched each other in a variety of ways, as psycho-analysis has provided theoretical bases for the interpretation of human behaviour and cultural studies have made it possible to prune psycho-analytic theory of the inevitable provincialisms of theory based on observations made exclusively within the Euro-American tradition (1). Because both fields are young and growing, they have also been able to take advantage of other developments in the behavioural sciences, such as the approaches of Gestalt psychology (28), of learning theory (12), (3), of studies in normal child development (47), as, for instance, those of Piaget in Geneva (51), and of Gesell and Ilg in the United States (31), (36). The development of child analysis as a special field also meant a stepping up of the degree of relevance which each discipline found in the other, and the development of modern methods of anthropological field work, particularly in the field called 'culture and personality'—itself a product of earlier cooperation—has meant that more detailed observations in both fields were available for comparative study. The older reliance by anthropologists upon psycho-analytic theory based upon reconstructions from the cases of adult patients and by psycho-analysts upon anthropological reconstructions of the nature of early man and of contemporary primitive man, which stimulated Freud and his contemporaries, has given place to precise observations of the actual behaviour of children, during childhood, and of actual primitive peoples, carefully observed in their own habitats.

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