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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.

Freedman, N. (1988). The Setting and the Issues. Psychoanal. Contemp. Thought, 11(2):197-212.

(1988). Psychoanalysis and Contemporary Thought, 11(2):197-212

The Setting and the Issues

Norbert Freedman, Ph.D.

The Hamburg Congress was a significant event in the history of the psychoanalytic movement. It was the first international meeting on German soil since the 1932 Wiesbaden meeting. We were in contact with German analysts engaged in the considerable efforts of remembering and critically examining the past, and we were confronted with the residuals and derivatives of Holocaust mentation. In most general terms, the Congress raised sobering issues about the values underlying our discipline and the vulnerability to erosion of such values.

At the conclusion of a memorable meeting on the “History of the Psychoanalytic Movement in Germany,” which took, place on Tuesday afternoon, Otto Kernberg reminded the audience that there was not only a generation gap or a culture gap, but also a cross-Atlantic gap—namely, that many of our American colleagues had stayed away. We who were there, he noted, had an obligation, upon our return home, to tell those who were not there about the Congress. The purpose of this special issue, then, is to fulfill that recommendation.

[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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