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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.

Isserow, J. (2015). From Observation to Apr├Ęs Coup. PEP Video Grants, 1(1):6.

(2015). PEP Video Grants, 1(1):6

From Observation to Après Coup

Author and Director
Jonathan Isserow

Commentary by:
Anne Alvarez, Irma Brenman Pick, Rosine Jozef Perelberg and Robert S. Wallerstein

This video explores the controversial debate between Daniel Stern and Andre Green at a conference on the 1st November 1997 at UCL, under the auspices of the Psychoanalysis unit. The video visually explores the different epistemological position presented by the two speakers: On the one hand, that knowledge of psychic life may be gleaned from infant observation; on the other, knowledge of the unconscious may only be known, après coup, as afterwardsness, in an analysis. This video visually explores this debate and concludes with a discussion by psychoanalysts who have been respondents to this controversy in a formal capacity.

[This excerpt is a short preview of the video. The full video and full transcript are available to subscribers.]

Copyright © 2019, Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing, ISSN 2472-6982 Customer Service | Help | FAQ | Download PEP Bibliography | Report a Data Error | About

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