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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.

Knox, J. Cambray, J. (2002). Editorial. J. Anal. Psychol., 47(2):139-140.

(2002). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 47(2):139-140


Jean Knox and Joe Cambray

The search for a shared language

The April and July issues of the Journal of Analytical Psychology are dedicated to the papers and workshops from the Journal's fourth international conference, which was the first to be held in Europe. Prague lies at the centre of Eastern and Western Europe and the participants came from 10 different countries; nearly 30 were from the former Soviet bloc, including Russia, the Czech Republic, Georgia and Slovenia. This meeting of psychoanalysts and analytical psychologists, from the USA and Eastern and Western Europe, speaking several languages between us, was itself an enactment of the main theme of the conference ‘Diversity and its Limits’ and of the ‘New Directions in Analytical Psychology and Psychoanalysis’ that we intended to explore. In recognition of this diversity abstracts in this issue and the following will be in Czech and Russian as well as in French, German, Italian and Spanish.

An issue that emerged repeatedly throughout the conference was the need to find a language to communicate across the diversity of culture, history and professional allegiances which were represented amongst the speakers and participants. Above all, how we could find a shared way to understand and express unconscious dynamics, whose unknown contents can only beindirectly translated into a symbolic language by means of a range of metaphors.

In his keynote address, Alain Gibeault firmly placed this discovery of a symbolic language at the centre of the analytic process, regardless of the variations in setting and technique, whether it be psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, analytical psychology or psychodrama.

[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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