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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.

Shields, R.W. (1964). The Too-Good Mother. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 45:85-88.

(1964). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 45:85-88

The Too-Good Mother

Robert W. Shields

Much stress has been laid by psycho-analysts on adverse environmental factors in early infancy and in childhood, and our attention has frequently been drawn to personality disorders resultant upon rejection, maternal separation, depression in the mother and other types of traumata.

Winnicott (1950p. 217) has postulated that without the 'good enough' environment the human infant cannot become individually differentiated, and does not 'come up as a subject for discussion in terms of normal psychology'. In his paper on 'Primary Maternal Preoccupation' (1956) he further elaborated that 'normal illness' of the mother which enables her to adapt delicately and sensitively to the infant's needs at the very beginning of life. Of some mothers, he says, 'They are not able to become preoccupied with their own infant to the exclusion of other interests, in the way that is normal and temporary.'

What has been examined rather less often is the intra-psychic predicament of the child who becomes the victim of a form of primary maternal preoccupation which is not temporary and which continues virtually unabated over a long period of years.

The sensitive mother provides a secure emotional climate within which the child can develop at his own pace to the point at which his ego can take over, piecemeal, certain functions and attitudes for himself which, till now, the mother has had to exercise or adopt on his behalf. This function of the mother involves her, through concern and management, in an active role exercising a dynamic function which is her own, but which has interpentrating effects on the child's developmental processes.

[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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