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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.

Gillespie, W. (1987). Melanie Klein: Her World and her Work: By Phyllis Grosskurth. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1986. Pp. ii + 515.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 68:138-142.

(1987). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 68:138-142

Melanie Klein: Her World and her Work: By Phyllis Grosskurth. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1986. Pp. ii + 515.

Review by:
William Gillespie

Anyone familiar with the work of Professor Phyllis Grosskurth will not be surprised to find that her full-length biography of Melanie Klein makes fascinating reading. Apart from her excellent and lucid style of writing there are other reasons for this. Her research has been extremely thorough, based as it is not only on published works and minutes but also on a vast number of letters to which she has been allowed generous access, as well as on many personal interviews. The one area where her researches have been thwarted is that of the Freud Archives, to which access is denied until 2000 A.D. That date is no longer so remote as it once seemed, and it may be hoped that Professor Grosskurth will bring out a revised edition when the material of the Archives becomes available.

Above all, however, it is the subject matter that makes the book of immense interest, both to those who witnessed some of the events recorded and to other readers, for the theme, as described in the subtitle, is the world and the work of Melanie Klein. This book, as well as being the history of Melanie Klein, is also a history of psychoanalysis from the time of her entry in 1914 until her death in 1960, and more particularly a history of the British Psycho-Analytical Society.

Professor Grosskurth ends her short foreword with this paragraph:

Few professional women have been subjected to as much distilled malice and rumour accepted as fact as Klein endured both during her lifetime and since her death. I hope that I have in some measure presented a more balanced evaluation.

[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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