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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.

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Wallach, T. (2019). What Do Participants Learn at Group Relations Conferences? A Report on a Conference Series on the Theme of Authority, Power, and Justice. Organ. Soc. Dyn., 19(1):1-20.

(2019). Organizational and Social Dynamics, 19(1):1-20


What Do Participants Learn at Group Relations Conferences? A Report on a Conference Series on the Theme of Authority, Power, and Justice

Tracy Wallach, Ph.D.

This article reports findings from evaluation research conducted from three conferences in the Authority, Power, and Justice: Leadership for Change series, convened annually from 2014 to 2016 at Boston College. The conferences have had similar structures and themes, with some slight variations. The highly diversified staff and membership has highlighted the themes of social identity, power, and justice in the conferences. Findings were consistent with prior research that participants do indeed learn at conferences. For both experienced and inexperienced conference members, the process of learning and meaning making is complex, relational, and evolves over time beyond the conference boundaries, and is idiosyncratic and variable. Learning can also occur at a steep cost. Recommendations are offered for enhancing learning and mitigating some of the factors that may interfere with learning. Suggestions involve re-thinking our notions of conference boundaries and the consulting stance, better integration of conference themes into conference structure, and integration of evaluation processes into conferences.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the article. PEP-Web provides full-text search of the complete articles for current and archive content, but only the abstracts are displayed for current content, due to contractual obligations with the journal publishers. For details on how to read the full text of 2018 and more current articles see the publishers official website here.]

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