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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.

Johnston, J. Paley, G. (2013). Mirror mirror on the ward: who is the unfairest of them all? Reflections on reflective practice groups in acute psychiatric settings. Psychoanal. Psychother., 27(2):170-186.

(2013). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 27(2):170-186

Mirror mirror on the ward: who is the unfairest of them all? Reflections on reflective practice groups in acute psychiatric settings

James Johnston and Graham Paley

Consultant psychiatrists in medical psychotherapy, adult psychotherapists, child and adolescent psychotherapists and clinical psychologists increasingly complement their direct therapeutic activity with applications of their psychotherapeutic thinking in acute mental health work through facilitating reflective practice groups for staff working in mental health teams. The authors offer their reflections on facilitating National Health Service reflective practice groups using the metaphor of a mirrored dialogue between patient and professional, and professional and institution as a basis for informing the development of reflective practice for colleagues. Their reflections are based on working on three acute in-patient wards, in a crisis resolution team and in community mental health teams. They describe the practicalities of setting up and facilitating reflective practice groups, and offer insights into some of the issues that arise in reflective practice groups. They conclude that these groups are mutually beneficial in forging links between psychotherapy professionals and professionals working in other disciplines and areas of mental health. Facilitating these groups often requires a challenging adaptation of technique, which will not suit all psychotherapists, as well as a wider understanding of organisational dynamics and the interplay between clinicians and management.

[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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