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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.

Greenberg, J. (2000). Discussion of Dr. Epstein's Case. J. Clin. Psychoanal., 9(4):444-450.

(2000). Journal of Clinical Psychoanalysis, 9(4):444-450

Discussion of Dr. Epstein's Case

Jay Greenberg, Ph.D.

Before addressing the specifics of Dr. Epstein's case material, I would like to make a few general comments on our panel's focus. In his introductory remarks, Dr. Furer has concisely framed the problem we are addressing, and I will take a moment to explicate what he is suggesting. First, he believes—cautiously—that the analyst inevitably participates in the analysis, in ways that extend beyond technique as prescribed in the classical canon and that may or may not be accessible to the analyst's conscious awareness. In this, he is in agreement with all relational psychoanalysts and with many contemporary Freudians as well.

Having staked out a position on this broad issue, Dr. Furer goes on to take sides in two important, derivative debates. In one condensed sentence, he tells us that “these participations of the analyst are not central to the work or to the therapeutic effect.” Let me begin to unpack this comment. By saying that the analyst's participation is “not central to the work,” Dr. Furer is warning that to focus on the analyst's experience or behavior runs the risk of minimizing the role of what he calls “transference repetitions and distortions.” Then, by saying that the analyst's participation is “not central … to the therapeutic effect” he aligns himself with those who believe that we can be pretty sure about where the therapeutic action of psychoanalysis lies, and that it lies primarily in the workings of interpretation, rather than in some other aspect of the patient's experience in treatment. So Dr.

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