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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.

First, E. (1970). The First Year of Analysis of a Fatherless Boy. J. Child Psychother., 2(4):39-53.

(1970). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 2(4):39-53

The First Year of Analysis of a Fatherless Boy

Elsa First

This is a report on some clinical material from the first year of analysis of a fatherless five-year-old boy. While it presents only the first stage of an ongoing analysis, this material may be of interest for the views it afforded of the impact of having a dead father on the phallic-oedipal development of a five-year-old boy whom the analytic situation seemed to have helped towards a revival of abandoned phallic-oedipal strivings. Another interesting aspect of this case which can, I hope, be noted in this material, (though it was only to come into clearer focus later in the analysis)—is the disturbance in the capacity for object relationships in a child for whom all relationships are fraught with an unbearable degree of anticipation of object loss.

History and Background

Robert L. was five years four months old when he began analysis. He was seen on four consecutive days weekly, and his mother had fortnightly interviews with the therapist. Robert's analysis was undertaken in the setting of an outpatient children's clinic which had as the centre of its research, training, and service facilities a small Therapeutic Nursery School with separate classes for three, four and five year olds, of which Robert had been a member since joining the pre-nursery playgroup at age two-and-a-half. Robert thus entered analysis in an almost communal setting in which it was reassuringly ordinary to have a “special appointment lady”. And his therapist also had the benefit of abundant observational and diagnostic material from Robert's previous years in the Nursery as well as of ongoing communications with his teachers.

[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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