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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.

Sandler, J. (1962). Research in Psycho-Analysis—The Hampstead Index as an Instrument of Psycho-Analytic Research. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 43:287-291.

(1962). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 43:287-291

Research in Psycho-Analysis—The Hampstead Index as an Instrument of Psycho-Analytic Research Related Papers

Joseph Sandler


Some seven or eight years ago the research project known as the Hampstead Index was initiated. Quite apart from the concrete results obtained in this project, work with it has prompted the consideration of a number of problems of research methodology in psychoanalysis. An outcome of this is the conclusion that the technique of 'indexing' can provide the basis for a method of research in psycho-analysis which fulfils the requirements of a scientific method.

The first part of this paper will be devoted to a necessarily short sketch of the development of the Hampstead Index, the second to some of its theoretical implications from the point of view of scientific method, and the last part to some of the potentialities of index construction.

One of the duties of psycho-analytic child therapists and analysts who have cases in daily analysis at the Hampstead Clinic is documentation, for the psycho-analytic material collected there is the property of the Clinic as a whole, and is meant to be available for research. Therapists write detailed weekly reports, and further reports every two months.

With the accumulation of this material, the Clinic was faced with the problem of using the recorded data for the purposes of research. The mere accumulation of records, however accurate and illuminating, does not constitute research. A solution of this problem came about through a suggestion by Mrs Dorothy Burlingham, that an index to the case material be constructed, which would make the material more accessible for research, teaching, and reference purposes, and which would suggest new lines of research by assembling the analytic data in such a way as to facilitate comparison between cases.

[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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