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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.

Valenstein, A.F. (1962). Basic Theory of Psychoanalysis: By Robert Waelder. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1960. 273 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 31:254-257.

(1962). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 31:254-257

Basic Theory of Psychoanalysis: By Robert Waelder. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1960. 273 pp.

Review by:
Arthur F. Valenstein

Through this integrated series of essays Robert Waelder hopes '… to combat widespread misunderstanding of psychoanalysis and thereby to help conserve what we have inherited; to see psychoanalysis in its context in the history of our civilization; and to help discover the most promising avenues of advancement'. The intention of offering a comprehensive survey of psychoanalytic theory is explicitly disavowed, and it is emphasized that only basic theory is presented, with 'some aspects of analytic theory, in particular the more abstract ones, not treated at all or treated in a cursory fashion'.

Even though this book expressly concerns basic theory, the careful reader who searches for details and implications beyond the fundamentals of psychoanalytic theory will be rewarded by the stimulating discussion of questions well beyond an elementary level. As a scientific logician and theoretician of broad background and perspective, Dr. Waelder does a service to psychoanalysis by bringing to the relatively uninformed reader, as well as to the theoretically-inclined and clinically-experienced psychoanalyst, an appreciation of scientific elements and logical operations implicit in the elaboration of a body of psychoanalytic theory that is sound and internally consistent. The author's interest in philosophical and scientific considerations which bear upon valid theory building is evident throughout the entire book. It is pointed out that Freud in some of his articles proposed theoretical formulations immediately referent to psychological facts and phenomena, but proposed others more speculatively, at a higher level of abstraction, which could not be so applied.

A book of essays on basic psychoanalytic theory that is not bound by formal structure and is not comprehensively inclusive has the advantage of flexibility. The author gains a certain freedom to select for emphasis and discussion those topics, concepts, and aspects of theory that especially interest him, and this may add to the originality of such a book and its appeal to the reader.

[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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