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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.

Shane, M. Shane, E. (1988). The Interpersonal World of the Infant. A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology: By Daniel N. Stern. New York: Basic Books, 1985. 304 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 57:430-435.

(1988). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 57:430-435

The Interpersonal World of the Infant. A View from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology: By Daniel N. Stern. New York: Basic Books, 1985. 304 pp.

Review by:
Morton Shane

Estelle Shane

Daniel Stern has performed a service for psychoanalysis: as a psychoanalyst and developmentalist, he has, turning to the infant, asked the important questions clinicians want answered about early development. To quote him, he wonders, "How do infants experience themselves and others? Is there a self to begin with, or an other, or some amalgam of both? How do they bring together separate sounds, movements, touches, sights, and feelings to form a whole person? Or is the whole person grasped immediately? How do infants experience the social events of 'being with' an other? How is 'being with' someone remembered, or forgotten, or represented mentally? What might the experience of relatedness be like as development proceeds? In sum what kind of interpersonal world or worlds does the infant create?" (p. 3). The book as a whole is an attempt to answer these questions, and it concludes with a section on the clinical implications to be drawn from viewing the developing infant in the manner described.

Stern has carried out his purpose in a careful yet creative and always closely reasoned fashion. The careful aspect is his precise and documented attention to extensive data derived from infant observation and experimentation; the creative aspect is his consistent view of the developing person from the perspective of the subjective vantage point of the self, alone and in interaction with others.


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