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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.

Fordham, M. (1964). A study of brief psychotherapy, by D. H. Malan. London, Tavistock. pp. xiv + 312. 35s.. J. Anal. Psychol., 9(2):191.

(1964). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 9(2):191

A study of brief psychotherapy, by D. H. Malan. London, Tavistock. pp. xiv + 312. 35s.

Review by:
Michael Fordham

This book reports on cases treated by a brief method of therapy devised by a group of trained psycho-analysts under the leadership of Dr Balint. The patients were chosen because they were well motivated towards therapy and because a psychodynamic hypothesis about the origin of their disorder could be formulated. A treatment policy was then outlined by the therapist, with the help of a group in which Dr and Mrs Balint participated. The treatment plan was aimed at the focus inferred by the psychodynamic hypothesis, and rather direct interpretations were used. The number of interviews was defined, and before the treatment began the end was clearly envisaged.

In this way a situation is created to which statistical methods can usefully be applied; one of the significant results is a positive correlation between interpretation of the negative transference and therapeutic effect.

That only some patients can go through the rather rigorous discipline described is not surprising. From the successful cases, a number of conclusions are arrived at, which, though common practice among many analysts using short treatments, are still not generally recognized. They are as follows: transference interpretations are useful; dependent feelings are desirable; and deep interpretations are valuable and need not be reserved for long-term analysis.

This volume was clearly stimulated by the attack that is being made by Eysenck and his co-workers in this country on psycho-analysis in particular and psychotherapy in general; the book's importance, however, lies not in its contribution to the polemic, but in its description of a method that is revolutionary in nature. In my opinion the method, though differing from analysis proper, can be taken as a sample of sound analytic procedures. In any analysis the therapist's interest is centred on a series of foci one at a time. As they occur they are interpreted and worked through. One factor that tends to lengthen analysis is that the patient is given a lot of rope in deciding when the treatment shall end. In this respect Balint and his co-workers have devised a sampling method which could have far-reaching consequences.

A study of brief psychotherapy deserves to be read by everyone who is engaged in analytic and psychotherapeutic practice, or who is interested in discovering more exact methods for assessing the variety of techniques used in these two disciplines.

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