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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.

Weiss, J. (1996). The Second Century of Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Psychol., 13(2):251-258.

(1996). Psychoanalytic Psychology, 13(2):251-258

The Second Century of Psychoanalysis

Joseph Weiss, M.D.

The topic here is the second 100 years of psychoanalysis. This topic is certainly not modest. It requires us to attempt to predict the future from our knowledge of the past and present.

Obviously we cannot expect to see 100 years ahead. We cannot even expect to see 10 years ahead. Moreover, our ideas about where we are going inevitably are highly subjective. They reflect our particular vantage point, which is shaped by our particular assessment of what is useful and progressive in the present and recent past.

My attempts at prognostication are unabashedly subjective and will no doubt reflect my wishes as well as my expectations. I make my predictions from my own vantage point, which has been shaped by a particular psychoanalytic theory and the research based upon this theory (Weiss, 1993a, 1993b; Weiss, Sampson, & The Mount Zion Psychotherpay Research Group, 1986). So before attempting to look into the future, I briefly present this theory and one relevant research investigation. This theory is distinctive in its ideas about unconscious mental life, psychopathology, and therapy.

Unconscious Mental Life

The theory, developed by my collaborators and me, assumes that a person unconsciously performs many of the same kinds of functions that he performs consciously. He thinks, assesses reality, and develops beliefs about it. He makes decisions, carries out plans, and regulates his unconscious mental life in accordance with his decisions and plans.

[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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