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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.

Scharff, D.E. Birtles, E.F. (1997). From Instinct To Self: The Evolution And Implications Of W. R. D. Fairbairn's Theory Of Object Relations. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:1085-1103.

(1997). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 78:1085-1103

From Instinct To Self: The Evolution And Implications Of W. R. D. Fairbairn's Theory Of Object Relations

David E. Scharff and Ellinor Fairbairn Birtles

The authors argue that fifty years after the initial publication of W. R. D. Fairbairn's object-relations theory of the personality, his ideas have moved to the centre of psychoanalysis and provide the most cogent theoretical rationale for many modern concepts of technique and the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis. In particular, Fairbairn centred object-relations theory on the person's need for relationships from infancy and throughout life, and gave the first detailed description of the sequential processes of internalisation of the rejecting object, followed by splitting of the ego and repression of painful internal object relations. He described the way these processes led to the organisation of the ego as an internal system of subegos and part objects (which are actually organisations of the ego, too) which are always in dynamic interaction with each other and which determine the quality of external relationships. This paper draws on Fairbairn's early writings, many of them recently published for the first time, to describe the origin of Fairbairn's ideas in his study of philosophy, to outline his theory of object relations, and to consider current developments and applications of these ideas in psychoanalysis and beyond.

[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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