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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.

Morgan-Jones, R. (2014). An Introduction to Workplace Bullying. Sheila White. London: Karnac, 2013. Organ. Soc. Dyn., 14(2):426-431.

(2014). Organizational and Social Dynamics, 14(2):426-431

Book Review

An Introduction to Workplace Bullying. Sheila White. London: Karnac, 2013

Review by:
Richard Morgan-Jones

This book is an important contribution in applying our work to a new field:

In the workplace and in schools the term “bullying” covers a wide range of behaviours, extending from teasing to violent assault … Overt behaviours include physical threats and verbal abuse such as ridiculing and constant criticism. Covert actions of bullies include lying, spreading malicious rumours, and undermining performance at work by denying individuals' information and access to basic materials to carry out their tasks effectively. (p. 3)

The Preface opens with clear intent: the three aims of the book are “exploring hidden worlds … of bullying”, “new ways of conceptualising bullying”, and bridging “theory and practice” (pp. xiv-xv). The first four chapters each cover the domains of: individuals, interpersonal relationships, groups, and organisational contexts. Each chapter also has a common tripartite structure moving from research reviews, to psychoanalytical theories, to answering practical concerns of those who engage with bullying behaviour that is drawn from the first two sections. Each chapter begins with an overview and key questions that are then addressed in the practical section. The final chapter provides a case study that illustrates theories and prescriptions in action.

This is a book for all engaged in working in organisations and I would particularly underline its value to authors and academics as a model of clarity of style, purpose and accessible organisation of material.

In the research surveys, the author makes great use of quotations from victims, and the reader is invited empathically to enter into their experience of suffering:

Bullying is like being on a knife-edge of fear and dread. When you get up every morning and drive to work and you get that sinking feeling … The dread is almost worse than the experience. (p.

[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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