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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.

Steiner, J. (1987). Essential Papers on Borderline Disorders: One Hundred Years on the Border: Edited by Michael H. Stone. New York: New York University Press. 1986. Pp. 580. $55.00.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 68:563-565.

(1987). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 68:563-565

Essential Papers on Borderline Disorders: One Hundred Years on the Border: Edited by Michael H. Stone. New York: New York University Press. 1986. Pp. 580. $55.00.

Review by:
John Steiner

Michael H. Stone is a psychoanalyst and a psychiatrist with a substantial reputation in the United States, who has written a number of papers as well as a book on borderline disorders. He has edited and annotated this volume which is one of a series whose companions are: Essential Papers on Object Relations, Essential Papers on Narcissism, and Essential Papers on Depression. It is an interesting subject and an interesting book but I think it would be fair to say at the start that this particular selection, which covers a hundred years of papers on borderline disorders, does not lie comfortably under the general title, 'Essential papers in psychoanalysis'. It does not contain papers on psychoanalysis and certainly not Essential papers in psychoanalysis. Perhaps a selection of papers for the psychoanalytically informed psychiatrist would be more accurate.

The papers and the editor's comments on them reflect a view of the relationship between psychoanalysis and psychiatry which seems to me to represent a currently fashionable shift among psychotherapists away from the psychological to the biological. Moreover because our understanding of the biological basis of mental phenomena is still in its infancy the emphasis comes to focus on classification and diagnosis. The aim seems to be to clarify our categories in order to be ready for the biological discoveries which will one day underpin them.

This has been the philosophy of European psychiatry since Kraepelin and it is one which Freud was able to resist.

[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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