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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.

Goergen, M.S. (2005). Southern Brazilian Chapter. Neuropsychoanalysis, 7(1):117.

(2005). Neuropsychoanalysis, 7(1):117

Southern Brazilian Chapter

Maria Sonia Goergen

Edited by:
Iréne Matthis

The group has continued meeting monthly, and during the year 2004 we have eagerly been studying Mark Solms's writings. In September we were delighted to take part in the Fifth International Congress of Neuro-Psychoanalysis in Rome, where we presented three posters: on confabulation (Madeleine Scop Medeiros), on Tourette's syndrome, and on pervasive developmental disorders (Maria Sonia Goergen et al.)

We have now also legally registered our group as the Southern Brazilian Chapter of the International Neuro-Psychoanalytic Society, which indicates that we are located in the most southern state of Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul, in its capital, Porto Alegre. During the first part of 2005, the group will be preparing for the next congress, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro in July 2005.

[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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