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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.

Balint, E. (1969). Psychosocial Nursing: Studies from the Cassel Hospital: Edited by Elizabeth Barnes. London: Tavistock Publications. 1968. Pp. 316.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 50:412-413.

(1969). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 50:412-413

Psychosocial Nursing: Studies from the Cassel Hospital: Edited by Elizabeth Barnes. London: Tavistock Publications. 1968. Pp. 316.

Review by:
Enid Balint

This book consists of a collection of papers written over the period 1946–67 and compiled as a tribute to Dr T. F. Main, who has been the Medical Director of the Cassel Hospital over this period. It gives insight into Main's work and ideas. The volume consists of 28 papers, five of which are by Main himself, and nine by one of his chief colleagues and one-time Matron of the Hospital, Doreen Weddell. The idea of the collection of papers was first proposed by the Cassel Hospital nurses themselves, and the Cassel Bursary Trust agreed to sponsor it. This Trust was founded in 1942 with the object of interesting nurses in the neuroses and in the work of the Cassel Hospital.

It is good to rediscover how much Main's ideas have influenced the widely held concepts about nursing and the 'therapeutic community' which are now part of our culture. Already in 1946, in his paper entitled 'The Hospital as a Therapeutic Institution', written as the result of his experience at Northfield Military Hospital during the war, Main says:

It is doubtful whether the hospital can usefully remain a building within which individual treatment is practised. Perhaps it must become a therapeutic institution.

[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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