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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.

Dunn, J. (1994). The Dutch Annual of Psychoanalysis. I, 1993: Mirrors and Shadows of the Analyst. Jan Groen. Pp. 205-222.. Psychoanal Q., 63:815.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: The Dutch Annual of Psychoanalysis. I, 1993: Mirrors and Shadows of the Analyst. Jan Groen. Pp. 205-222.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:815

The Dutch Annual of Psychoanalysis. I, 1993: Mirrors and Shadows of the Analyst. Jan Groen. Pp. 205-222.

Jonathan Dunn

Analysts' narcissistic problems—their need to use the analysand to shore up their self-esteem and maintain an illusory grandiosity—negatively affect the analytic process. The analyst may turn the adoring analysand into an idealized transference object. Concomitantly, the analyst may be unable to accept the loss of individuality produced by the analysand's demanding only to be mirrored. In both situations, analysts defensively impose a role on the analysand, rather than opening themselves up in a role-responsive manner. Along these same lines, analysts may try to duplicate themselves through the analysand, or may turn the analysand into an idealized sexual partner with attributes they would like to appropriate for themselves. The analyst's unconscious envy, revenge, and acts of thievery embedded in these countertransference dynamics may cast a persecutory shadow on the treatment. Groen compares generative empathy, in which the identification with the analysand i temporary and a sense of separateness is always maintained, with pseudoempathy, which involves a protracted merging and a "theft of emotions."

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Article Citation

Dunn, J. (1994). The Dutch Annual of Psychoanalysis. I, 1993. Psychoanal. Q., 63:815

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