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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.

Fonagy, P. (2010). The changing shape of clinical practice: Driven by science or by pragmatics?. Psychoanal. Psychother., 24(1):22-43.

(2010). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 24(1):22-43

The changing shape of clinical practice: Driven by science or by pragmatics?

Peter Fonagy


Few would dispute that psychoanalytic practice has changed considerably over the last 50 years. The differences are at least three-fold: (a) a bimodal distribution of treatment lengths (some very long and some very short); (b) patients with personality pathology in addition to axis I symptoms; and (c) technical changes with a relational flavour, displaying influences from developmental theories including attachment theory. Are any of these changes associated with scientific research and, if so, how? A second question concerns the research base of psychoanalysis. If we take the discoveries of the last 25 years seriously, what kind of therapy might we recommend to our patients? Would it look anything like standard practice? I will attempt to pose some serious questions about the status of clinical practice, asking why it appears to be protected from scientific advances yet readily responsive to pragmatic considerations such as third party payments. To make the argument easier to absorb I will try and tell it as number of short heroic tales, each with its own beginning, middle and end, complete with the moral lessons to be learned.

The evidence base of psychotherapy in general

I will begin with the story of the evidence base of psychotherapy in general. This story began over half a century ago when an evil genius, a certain Dr Hans Eysenck (1952) disturbed the tranquility in the Kingdom of Psychotherapy established by a benign powerful ruler (Sigmund Freud, the Wise). This evil genius made the claim that psychotherapy worked no better than the facility nature gave all of us to recover from psychological disturbance by a process of spontaneous healing. Up to that time, all the Templar Knights of psychotherapy, who were both fearsome warriors and devout monks, could righteously believe that the people they cured recovered because of their magic spells and carefully measured potions, which often took decades of apprenticeship to learn to brew with confidence.

[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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