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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.

Greenberg, J. (1992). Commentary on Sampson's “The Role of ‘Real’ Experience in Psychopathology and Treatment”. Psychoanal. Dial., 2(4):529-537.

(1992). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 2(4):529-537

Commentary on Sampson's “The Role of ‘Real’ Experience in Psychopathology and Treatment” Related Papers

Jay Greenberg, Ph.D.

It is a special pleasure to discuss Harold Sampson's paper because I have long admired his work. My admiration is based on many things, not the least of which is my appreciation for his interest in, and openness to, psychoanalytic ideas. I also believe that through his work with the Mt. Zion Psychotherapy Research Group he has given us a vision of the psychoanalytic process that keeps faith with, but also extends, our clinicians' view of what goes on when we do psychoanalytic work.

First let me say a few words about the theory Sampson has described so clearly in his paper. It is a perspective that fits comfortably within the relational model of psychoanalysis. Like each of the theories operating within the relational model, it begins with the assumption that all human experience originates in the interpersonal exchange. This is true genetically; early relationships lay down patterns that shape everything that comes later. It is also true throughout life, in the sense that any experience—psychoanalytic transferences are, of course, a particularly relevant case in point—is significantly determined by social reality. Everything that we might consider “intrapsychic,” including both motivation and regulation, arises, according to the premises of the relational model, as a transformation of early experience with other people.

The key concept in Sampson's particular relational approach is the conscious and especially the unconscious “belief” about reality.

[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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