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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.

Cohen, P. (2011). The Evolution of the Project: Helping the Mothers, Infants and Young Children of September 11, 2001. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 10(2):187-201.

(2011). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 10(2):187-201

The Evolution of the Project: Helping the Mothers, Infants and Young Children of September 11, 2001

Phyllis Cohen, Ph.D.

This article describes the evolution of the Project for Mothers, Infants, and Young Children of September 11, 2001. When a group of pregnant women lost their husbands on 9/11, we knew that traditional approaches would not be sufficient to help them cope with this unthinkable disaster. The unique circumstances of being pregnant and widowed, and having to experience not only the birth of a baby but also pressures from in-laws, government agencies, and stresses of a national disaster that served as a constant reminder, all contributed to the difficulty in launching this project. Begun as an intervention to help with mourning, bonding, developing a community of support, and trying to minimize the transmission of the trauma, our work evolved into a long-term primary prevention project. Eventually a range of services was offered to the mothers and their children, including groups for mothers and babies, videotaped play sessions and video feedback consultations with a team of therapists. These services altered as the needs of families changed over time. The Project created a net of safety to attend to the needs of the therapist team as well.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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