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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.

Grotjahn, M. (1949). The Social Service Review. XXII, 1948: Psychiatry Experiments with Selection. Henry W. Brosin. Pp. 461–468.. Psychoanal Q., 18:273.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Social Service Review. XXII, 1948: Psychiatry Experiments with Selection. Henry W. Brosin. Pp. 461–468.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:273

The Social Service Review. XXII, 1948: Psychiatry Experiments with Selection. Henry W. Brosin. Pp. 461–468.

Martin Grotjahn

In this paper Brosin reports his experience in selecting medical students. He was interested not only in eliminating men who would fail but also in selecting those who were gifted. It was decided to do pilot control studies on a number of students in different medical schools, to follow their progress through four years of school, and for some time thereafter. Two classes, totaling four hundred and fifty students, have been examined. Nineteen different tests have been given to each of them.

The results of the preliminary analysis were uniformly disappointing. There is little hope that these tests, the best available at the present time, will furnish the means of differentiation. Intelligence tests have brought out only one fact, that a man with an I.Q. below one hundred thirty on the Binet will find the competition severe both in medical school and after graduation. Brosin found that a considerable amount of neurotic disturbance is tolerated by many students. It remains to identify those assets of the ego which permit a person to work efficiently in medical school in spite of his neurotic burden. The successful student shows a relatively uninhibited work motivation and intellectual activity.

Superior ability is no guarantee of success, since personality factors, including motivation, are more important. The Rorschach, accompanied by an individual interview with a psychiatrist, is by all odds the best method known at present for selection purposes. When these two methods were combined it was found that the most successful students show accuracy of perception, freedom from obsessional concern with small details, freedom from interference by extraneous material, nd freedom from anxiety under pressure. These students are not stimulus bound, are able to retain their ability to shift easily to relevant material and enjoy a better use of abstracting ability.

The testing interview of all students should, if possible, be done by the same psychiatrist. Spontaneous association should be encouraged. In the future all the students will be interviewed by three different psychoanalytic psychiatrists. It has been found that such interviews in quick succession on the same day may alter significantly the candidate's orientation. With this approach detailed histories cannot be obtained but considerable data for genuine understanding of the person can be gained.

This very stimulating and thoughtful paper concludes with the warning that caution must be exercised by admission committees of schools to avoid an artificial homogeneity in the composition of a class.

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Article Citation

Grotjahn, M. (1949). The Social Service Review. XXII, 1948. Psychoanal. Q., 18:273

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