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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.

Rubinstein, A. (1990). Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York. Psychoanal Q., 59:520-522.

(1990). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 59:520-522

Meeting of the Psychoanalytic Association of New York

Alina Rubinstein

May 16, 1988. A PSYCHOANALYTIC PERSPECTIVE ON DEPRESSION. (23rd Freud Anniversary Lecture.) Charles Brenner, M.D.

Dr. Brenner's purpose was to re-examine the understanding of depression in mental illness from the psychological point of view, which he feels has been relatively neglected in the current emphasis on neurobiological approaches. In Dr. Brenner's opinion, the prevalent conceptualization of depressive illness is misguided and thus impedes optimal treatment. Relying on data acquired through the clinical psychoanalytic method, Dr. Brenner has arrived at two conclusions. The first concerns the psychodynamic and psychogenetic role depression plays in mental illness: it is an error to equate depression as an affect with depression as an illness. The second, a corollary of the first, is that mental illnesses exhibiting depression as a prominent feature cannot be assumed to be similar on that basis. Therefore, an adequate nosology of mental illness cannot be based on the presence of depression.

Dr. Brenner reviewed the nature of affects and their role in psychic conflict. Affects can be most parsimoniously described as a combination of two elements, "a sensation or experience of pleasure or unpleasure, and an idea or ideas." Either of these elements may be unconscious, but both must be present by definition in any affect, whether repressed or not. The unpleasurable affects, those responsible for initiating psychic conflict, can be differentiated into two types: anxiety, and what Dr.

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