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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.

Harkavy, E.E. (1960). Conceptual and Methodological Problems in Psychoanalysis: By Leopold Bellak, M.D.; Mortimer Ostow, M.D.; E. Pumpian-Mindlin, M.D.; Alfred H. Stanton, M.D.; Thomas S. Szasz, M.D. New York: The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 76, Article 4, pp. 971-1134 (164 pp.), 1959.. Psychoanal Q., 29:400-401.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:400-401

Conceptual and Methodological Problems in Psychoanalysis: By Leopold Bellak, M.D.; Mortimer Ostow, M.D.; E. Pumpian-Mindlin, M.D.; Alfred H. Stanton, M.D.; Thomas S. Szasz, M.D. New York: The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 76, Article 4, pp. 971-1134 (164 pp.), 1959.

Review by:
Edward E. Harkavy

This little monograph with a big title demonstrates again that it is good for psychoanalysts to discuss their theories—to extend their daily work at the couch. The protagonists are so evenly matched that it is easy to spot the essential difference between them. That difference is the same now as it was when Freud was alive: the willingness to be as rigorously consistent and systematic with their own contributions as they are being toward Freud's.

The first paper by Thomas Szasz on the libido theory exemplifies this most clearly. The discussant of Szasz's paper, Nevitt Sanford, is almost vulgarly sensible and irrefutable as he disposes of Szasz's objections to Freud's libido theory. But Sanford missed the main flaw: Szasz criticizes several of Freud's familiar concepts as if Freud had presented them as observational data. Yet Szasz, who follows Melanie Klein and Fairbairn, heedlessly uses their basic constructs as if they were data of observation; thus he has a built-in self-verifying technique in his system which like Marxism, paranoia, and African tribal customs is indisputable.

In the second paper on object choices, Stanton concludes that a group of people is more than the sum of its individuals, that there is an interpersonal something which adds to and transcends individual considerations. Sanford, again the discussant, accepts this as a truism. He then poises against each other these two latest schools of psychoanalytic revisionism: Stanton's social science methodology and Szasz's stimulus-response simplification. Sanford is brilliant here, but one is not fully aware of his depth and soundness until page 1095, when he tangles with Bellak (himself a good metaphysician) on another issue entirely. There Sanford comes up with the crucial comment about Stanton's contribution, which the earlier discussion had not yet reached in level and therefore did not deserve. The import of his remarks is that a greater degree of true-or-false decidedness is being demanded of Freud than was ever asked of any of the physical scientists.

[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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