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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.

Ring, A.H. (1915). Psychoanalysis. Psychoanal. Rev., 2(4):390-408.

(1915). Psychoanalytic Review, 2(4):390-408

Psychoanalysis

Arthur H. Ring, M.D.

“Blest are those whose blood and judgment

Are so commingled that they are not a pipe

For Fortune's fingers to sound what stops she pleases.”

Hamlet.

In emerging from metaphysics the young science of psychology has followed the natural course of working from the more obvious and concrete to the less evident and abstract. The primary sensory mechanisms and their correlates in consciousness have been timed and measured until we have a fairly definite knowledge about perception, memory, attention, etc. All this is valuable and important but I will venture that every medical man who has perused an ordinary text book on psychology with the hope of finding there something that would help him to better understand the mind of his capricious, moody or depressed patients has looked in vain. The reason for this is that the psychology of the emotional life does not readily yield itself to experimental study and so the discussion of the emotions is still in its infancy. Again as Dr. Sidis has emphasized in his recent book “The Foundation of Normal and Abnormal Psychology” it is in abnormal minds, segmented by disease, that we can best study mind elements, and the writers of text books on psychology have done little work with diseased minds. Though much data on the emotional side has been collected relating to various types of mental deviation, it remained for the genius of Professor Sigmund Freud of Vienna to breathe life into all this material and to establish a wide-spread interest in the neuroses, by pointing out the main source of emotions and showing the relations between our fundamental desires and our acts, as well as giving us the method by which the motive of the act may be uncovered.

[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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