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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.

Cooper, S. (2009). Familiar and Unfamiliar Forms of Interaction in the Ending Phases of Analysis. Psychoanal. Dial., 19(5):588-603.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 19(5):588-603

Familiar and Unfamiliar Forms of Interaction in the Ending Phases of Analysis

Steven Cooper, Ph.D.


In analyses that have been going concerns, initial discussions of termination often stimulate shifts in the patient's perspectives regarding the therapeutic work and the relationship between patient and analyst. The illusory, more open ended canvass for expanding curiosity engendered by the analysis will soon be temporally framed, even if patient and analyst know that this ending can always be renegotiated at a later date. The patient's growth during analysis may also move from foreground to background as the patient's and analyst's limitations in promoting growth may move from background to foreground. In this paper, I am most interested in how the process of ending analytic work provides a context for exploring previously unworked through and unexplored parts of interaction and experience.

Many analyses, including those that are highly productive, end at points in which the patient and analyst have run out of emotional and imaginative resources to take analysis to a further level of understanding. As Ferenczi (1912, p. 79) put it, “The proper ending of an analysis is when neither the physician nor the patient puts an end to it, but when it dies of exhaustion.” Some patients have been able to do enough productive work to place them in good stead in life, while others return to us or someone else for more analysis at a later date. For still another group of analytic dyads, the decision itself to terminate seems to facilitate renewed levels of work and commitment to resolve forms of impasse.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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