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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.

Chamberlain, H.E. (1949). The Psychology of Abnormal Behavior. A Dynamic Approach: By Louis P. Thorpe, Ph.D. and Barney Katz, Ph.D. New York: The Ronald Press Co., 1948. 877 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 18:392-393.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:392-393

The Psychology of Abnormal Behavior. A Dynamic Approach: By Louis P. Thorpe, Ph.D. and Barney Katz, Ph.D. New York: The Ronald Press Co., 1948. 877 pp.

Review by:
H. E. Chamberlain

This is one volume of a series in education, offered as a text for college and university courses. It follows closely the lesson pattern of a routine dissection; actually the approach is less dynamic than it is skilled—more technically objective than inspirationally subjective.

The authors, faculty members of the University of Southern California, are identified with the Departments of Education and Psychology. The Psychology of Abnormal Behavior is an impressive example—well nigh akin to the classical—in which vast segments of professional endeavor are audited competently and comprehensively, by which recorded techniques are briefed and set apart conclusively, and for which a huge array of established works has been classified and codified directionally. It is well indexed (authors, cases, subjects), contains a reliable glossary, and at the end of chapters recommends generously readings of documental value. The encyclopedic scope (charts, graphs, illustration, tables, etc.) of this book suggests that this highly organized work be regarded as of value in orienting advanced students, with access to seminar discussions and instruction, and for diplomates preparing for examination. The authors are impartial, objective and concise. They appear more authoritatively tolerant of the organically interpreted aberrations in human behavior than of the functional manifestations of inhuman conduct exposed by analytic or psychosomatic scrutiny. Psychoanalysis is presented in thirty pages.

[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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