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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.

Roth, N. (1990). Does Neurology Inform Psychoanalysis? A Case Report. J. Amer. Acad. Psychoanal., 18(3):512-518.

(1990). Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 18(3):512-518

Does Neurology Inform Psychoanalysis? A Case Report

Nathan Roth, M.D.

The purpose of this communication is to emphasize a consequence for psychiatry and psychoanalysis that has accompanied the “remedicalization” of psychiatry. The psychoanalyst today has to learn more than the administration of psychotropic drugs, a practice that is now recognized as not interfering with the psychoanalytic process and is often absolutely necessary for a patient both to tolerate the severity of his or her symptoms and to negotiate the tedious journey of a lengthy analysis. There is now an additional requirement that emphasizes the stringent necessity of making a correct diagnosis in cases that were formerly merely turned away by the psychoanalyst, avoiding confrontation with a problem that today demands attention.

Many psychiatrists and analysts claim that there is no such condition as conversion hysteria and that any sign or symptom that is diagnosed as a conversion manifestation has been seen in organic diseases of the nervous system (Slater, 1965). Several disorders are often erroneously diagnosed as conversion hysteria when they are actually organic diseases of the nervous system and pose the risk of a malpractice suit for the unwary psychoanalyst. The recent climate of malpractice suits has led to the appearance of such journals as Investigative Reporting. The disorder I shall discuss today can be seen to have resulted in all the misery of such suits in that journal, for this is a condition in which a faulty diagnosis causes both the patient and the practitioner much grief.

The patient under scrutiny here came to me in 1970 at the age of 23. She had first seen a prominent child psychiatrist at the age of 13, and he had then turned her over to a female psychiatrist who treated her for the ensuing five years, with, according to the patient, little or no amelioration of the complaints, so that the patient finally terminated the treatment. It should be pointed out that the young lady in question was not the easiest person to treat in that her behavior did not endear her to a therapist.

[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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