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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.

Kirshner, L.A. (1994). Between Hermeneutics and Science. An Essay on the Epistemology of Psychoanalysis: By Carlo Strenger, Ph.D. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1991. 234 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 63:574-578.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:574-578

Between Hermeneutics and Science. An Essay on the Epistemology of Psychoanalysis: By Carlo Strenger, Ph.D. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, Inc., 1991. 234 pp.

Review by:
Lewis A. Kirshner

This slim volume traverses the boundaries of psychology, philosophy, empirical research, and psychoanalysis to propose a conceptual foundation for psychoanalytic theory and practice which can hold up to postmodern critiques of conceptual systems and the positivist demand for empirical facts. On the one hand a response to Adolf Grünbaum's penetrating dissection of psychoanalytic epistemology, Strenger's monograph wrestles with his own uncertain position as an intellectual seeker of truth and practitioner of therapy. He accepts certain painful conclusions which many analysts might still resist—for example, that psychoanalysis represents a hermeneutic discipline, not a science—while struggling valiantly to uphold the validity of clinical experience. Since Strenger is unusually knowledgeable and able to convey his ideas in a straightforward, comprehensible manner, his efforts have resulted in a valuable contribution to our literature, one which will have a useful place in our analytic curriculum.

Strenger, like many other critics (e.g., Meissner), begins by sidestepping the thrust of Grünbaum's attack, in refusing to accept the portrayal of psychoanalysis which was proffered in The Foundations of Psychoanalysis. One can have very little quarrel with his description of contemporary psychoanalytic practice as much broader than the narrow search for specific etiologies as a "necessary condition" for cure. He takes his place with those modernist psychoanalysts who seek to disencumber clinical practice from an outdated theoretical superstructure with which it is often confused.

[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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