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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.

Furst, S.S. (1978). The Stimulus Barrier and the Pathogenicity of Trauma. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 59:345-352.

(1978). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 59:345-352

The Stimulus Barrier and the Pathogenicity of Trauma

Sidney S. Furst

One of Freud's momentous early discoveries was the fact that certain discrete childhood experiences crucially influenced the subsequent lives of his patients. These events, which he termed 'psychical traumas' first impressed him because of the specific role they played in the causation of illness and in the formation of symptoms.

Freud's interest in these phenomena—which continued unabated for the rest of his life—was not restricted to their direct implications for psychopathology. The finding that many of the traumatic experiences were imagined, and had not actually occurred, at first astonished and discouraged him, but then led to an understanding of the importance of fantasy as the psychic representation of both the instinctual drives and the defences. Continuing clinical experience resulted in another group of observations which carried far-reaching implications. First he noted that practically all children experience psychic traumas, but that only some of these experiences result in pathologic formations. Second, that events which are traumatic for some individuals are experienced without ill effects by others. Third, that the age and stage of development of the child will determine in large measure, whether or not a given stimulus will have a traumatic effect. It became clear that the response of the psychic apparatus to stimuli and challenges was a complex process, and that the outcome in each instance was determined by the operation and interaction of a number of variables.

[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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