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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.

Spillius, E.B. (1990). Containing Anxiety in Institutions and the Dynamics of the Social: Selected Essays of Isabel Menzies Lyth, in two volumes. London: Free Association Books, 1988 and 1989. Pp. 269 and 274.. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 71:366-368.

(1990). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 71:366-368

Containing Anxiety in Institutions and the Dynamics of the Social: Selected Essays of Isabel Menzies Lyth, in two volumes. London: Free Association Books, 1988 and 1989. Pp. 269 and 274.

Review by:
Elizabeth Bott Spillius

Robert Young, the publisher of Free Association Books, is much to be thanked for having persuaded Isabel Menzies Lyth, well known for her skill in combining the insights of social science and psychoanalysis, to publish a selection of her papers. He is much less to be thanked, however, for his method of introducing her work by printing a recorded conversation between Isabel Menzies Lyth, himself, and Ann Scott, the editor of her books. As in most conversations, the three participants wander about from reminiscence to gossip to crucially important issues without ever properly exploring the topics touched on or describing the development of Menzies Lyth's ideas. The papers are serious, the introduction is superficial. The reader, irritated by this discordance, is left to work out for himself what Isabel Menzies Lyth has tried to do.

He will get more help from her own introduction to the second volume, The Dynamics of the Social, where she says that in all the situations in which she has worked, she has used psychoanalytic theory (and she might have added that she makes much use of Bowlby's attachment theory) and certain aspects of social science theory, namely field theory and open systems theory, to understand the way individuals and institutions cope with anxiety through defences, adaptations, and sublimations. Anxiety, both personal and communal, is the central issue she addresses. As she says, as time has gone on she has made more use of management theory and has become more accepting of the fact that working as a consultant to institutions is bound to keep the consultant in a more or less continuous state of anxiety.

[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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