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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.

Williams, M.H. (1983). The Long Week-End by W.R. Bion: A Review Article. J. Child Psychother., 9(1):69-79.

(1983). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 9(1):69-79

The Long Week-End by W.R. Bion: A Review Article

Meg Harris Williams

Wilfred Bion's The Long Week-End is a fascinating account of one man's failure to become an individual, to achieve integrity, to make emotional contact with his internal objects. It is remarkable in that it is a well-written, witty, artistic evocation of an apparently unprepossessing subject. It works on the lines of the questions posed in his Memoir of the Future: “Has anyone seen an artist paint a picture ‘about’ or ‘of something ugly which was nevertheless beautiful?” The genre of the work might be described as a hybrid drawn from Goodbye to All That, Lord of the Flies, and 1984. For although its effect depends on the realistic description of a particular social climate, it has a futuristic quality which makes an essential contribution to its emotional impact. In the religion, prudery and patriotism of the late Victorian age, one glimpses Big Brother in the form of a series of “false parents”, of perverse ideals of masculinity and femininity and education. These, despite the good and even loving intentions of several of the main characters, succeed in divorcing the child Wilfred from any genuine emotional contact with his parents (literal and metaphorical), or with his cultural heritage. “The parents, staff, all were caught in a web of undirected menace”; for “Who could recognise danger in piety, ardent patriotism to school and games heroes?” As a child, Wilfred has yet to learn that the prep-school bully, Morgan, is not unique but an archetype; and “there were plenty more where that one came from, the source of the Morgans of this life”.

[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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