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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.

Freud, A. (1976). Changes in Psychoanalytic Practice and Experience. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 57:257-260.

(1976). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 57:257-260

Changes in Psychoanalytic Practice and Experience

Anna Freud

Members of the London Congress who read or listened to the prepublished papers by Leo Rangell (1975) and André Green (1975) had little chance to bridge the gap between these two widely divergent presentations. Rangell defended the hard-won insights of psycho-analysis and their therapeutic value by quoting their continuing efficiency when dealing with the consequences of the infantile amnesia, with anxiety, pathological defence, guilt and depression. He pleaded for adding new discoveries to the old instead of discarding the latter in favour of the former. André Green, on the other hand, deplored the failure of present-day psycho-analysis to effect cures when applied to the psychotic core of human nature or to the more severe, psychotic-type disturbances. He gave proof of experimentation with far-reaching modifications of technique and theory, offering a range of clinical examples.

It was not easy for anyone, under these circumstances, to extract from the authors' formulations what might be valid predictions for the future of the psychoanalytic discipline.


My own efforts in this direction fasten on to André Green's description of the 'malaise' felt by present-day analytic workers, a frame of mind which I cannot help to contrast with the satisfaction and excitement which governed the attitude of the pioneering, early psychoanalysts, a series of generations to which I myself belong. What caused this elated mood were several different circumstances.

[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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