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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.

Turco, R.N. (2014). Far from the Tree—Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, by Andrew Solomon, Scribner, New York, 2012, 962 pp., $37.50.. Psychodyn. Psych., 42(4):695-700.

(2014). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 42(4):695-700

Book Reviews

Far from the Tree—Parents, Children and the Search for Identity, by Andrew Solomon, Scribner, New York, 2012, 962 pp., $37.50.

Review by:
Ronald N. Turco, M.D.

This remarkable book brings together science, medicine, sociology, and psychology as these disciplines relate to the issues of the challenges of parenthood and more. It is thought provoking regarding the understanding of human differences and confrontational regarding our ingrained attitudes and prejudices, as the author's perspective is that it is diversity that unites all of us. The information is supported by facts, and multiple points of view are presented. The amount of material is substantial and replete with very sensitive examples. Solomon has travelled and personally done his own interviews and extensive research (40 thousand pages of interview transcripts with more than 300 families).

There are 12 chapters in this book: Son, Deaf, Dwarfs, Down Syndrome, Autism, Schizophrenia, Disability, Prodigies, Rape, Crime, Transgender, and Father. A review of this length will not do justice to the enormity of information and thought-provoking material presented so sensitively, but will serve to introduce the reader to an entirely different way of examining one's own feelings, as well as to a more comprehensive understanding of the circumstances of the lives of people we may have had little experience with.

In the first chapter the author discusses his personal life and development which may be summed up by his statement: “The problem is to change how we assess the value of individuals and of lives, to reach for a more ecumenical take on healthy” (p. 5). He notes that realism allows parents of “special needs children” to regain control over what is happening and to come to see their trauma as smaller than it first seemed.

[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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