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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.

Burrow, T. (1913). The Third Meeting of the „American Psychopathological Association“ held in Boston, May 29, 1912. Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 1(4):405-407.

(1913). Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 1(4):405-407

The Third Meeting of the „American Psychopathological Association“ held in Boston, May 29, 1912

Trigant Burrow

was opened with an address by the President, Dr. Adolf Meyer, on the „Conditions for a Home of Psychology in the Medical Curriculum“.

Dr. Meyer spoke of the important reconstructive tendencies of today in the teaching of psychology and psychopathology, and of the fundamental contrasts among them which marked the trend of tbe past twelve months. He particularly urged the inculcation of a wider tolerance and mutual support among those students and observers whose differing but related interests tend to the emphasis of widely removed lines of investigation, but above all he urged the encouragement of „the biological attitude and conceptions“. The President's adress was a strong plea for a common-sense study of the observable facts in the chain of events determining the life history of the individual. „Personally“ he says „I look in the events for the factors of psychobiological reaction, and study them for the conditions under which they occur, the differentiatee marks of the different conditions, the factors principally at work and the means for their modifiability.“

Finally the speaker cited once more the essential need of frankly studying and regulating the sexual life of patients, and he took occasion in this connection to denounce in unmistakable terms the recent action on the part of the trustees of one of our newly opened hospitals in making the appointment of a physician to its staff „dependent on the disgraceful condition … that neither hypnosis nor psychoanalysis be employed“.

The adress of the President was followed by „A Clinical Study of a Case of Phobia: A Symposium“.

[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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