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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.

Firestein, S.K. (1970). Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society. Psychoanal Q., 39:168-169.

(1970). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 39:168-169

Meetings of the New York Psychoanalytic Society

Stephen K. Firestein

DISCUSSION: Dr. K. R. Eissler observed that the therapeutic task in this case was almost impossible as there was no support from the patient's external or internal environment. While he agreed with the general principles of the handling of the patient, Eissler felt puzzled by Roose's disclaimer of knowing anything about death and wondered what the remark might have meant to the patient's unconscious. Eissler strongly opposes telling patients that they have fatal diseases. He emphasized that a sense of the future should be maintained. He added that one cannot treat a dying patient adequately unless one feels sorrow and pity, which do not preclude simultaneous admiration of the patient.

Dr. Bernard Brodsky felt that Roose's management of the devastating emotional problems of the patient was adroit and intuitive. In the analytic treatment of a young woman with leukemia, he found the mechanism of denial to be operating in such a way as to impede her collaboration with medical measures aimed at prolonging her life. In Brodsky's experience the patient never really abolishes denial and death itself is not viewed as nothingness but as an eternal fusion with the primal mother's breast.

Dr. Bernard C. Meyer agreed with Eissler that such patients should not be told the true diagnosis. Dr. Leo A. Spiegel said that the patient with knowledge of his imminent death is confronted with a predicament that analysts are well acquainted with in less severe degrees—the traumatic situation of helplessness. Dr. Max Schur felt that the main problem facing physicians treating dying patients is to know to what extent the patient wants to deny aspects of his reality situation. Some patients need to deny the gravity of their illnesses in any way possible; others do not need to deny the facts and meet death in heroic fashion. Dr. Samuel Atkin observed that the patient helps the physician with mechanisms of his own, such as denial and pursuit of the ego ideal. He felt that the capacity to trust the therapist and permit a regression to the infantile situation leads to a relationship that makes it possible for many people to die in an essentially peaceful way.

[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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