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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.

Kramer, P. (1949). August Aichhorn—1878–1949. Psychoanal Q., 18:494-497.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:494-497

August Aichhorn—1878–1949

Paul Kramer

If personal devotion to a great man and the privilege of his friendship were the sole qualifications required to do him justice in a few remarks, then I should feel no hesitation in speaking to you about August Aichhorn. Unfortunately, I do not feel equal to the task of conveying a true picture of Aichhorn's pioneering accomplishments and extraordinary personality. His few published writings, of which only the classical Wayward Youth has been translated into English, do not provide an adequate picture of the man or his work. In fact, in reviewing his few published essays I find them pale in comparison with the vital, warm and generous personality of Aichhorn.

He began as a teacher in Vienna. His interests very soon expanded beyond teaching and became concerned with the fate of neglected and unfortunate youth. This remained his primary interest to the end of his life. For years before his acquaintance with psychoanalysis, he devoted his immense energies to work with delinquent children. He found in Freud's ideas and observations an explanation for his own intuitive approach and successes, and a basis for his future pioneering work.

In adapting Freud's techniques of psychoanalysis to the special needs of the treatment of delinquents, he was the first to recognize that the delinquent's actions were determined in a comprehensible way by a combination of internal and external circumstances. To my knowledge he was the first to discard both society's century-old punitive attitude toward the wayward child and the opposite tendency of sentimental charity and unlimited indulgence advocated by some in the child-training field. Aichhorn organized and supervised the work of a series of municipal child guidance clinics for the city of Vienna, and for a number of years conducted the unique institutions of Oberhollabrun and St. Andrä 1918–1922).

[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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