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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.

Wilson, G.W. (1934). Report of a Case of Acute Laryngitis Occurring as a Conversion Symptom During Analysis. Psychoanal. Rev., 21(4):408-414.

(1934). Psychoanalytic Review, 21(4):408-414

Report of a Case of Acute Laryngitis Occurring as a Conversion Symptom During Analysis

George W. Wilson

I was prompted to report this case after reading an article by Karl A. Menninger in which he discusses certain conversion symptoms referred to the respiratory tract occurring during an analysis. In his report Menninger demonstrates how much may be learned regarding the psychogenic background of his case which simulated in all respects that of a common cold. The case I want to report is one of an acute laryngitis which appeared a few hours after an analytic session and almost completely disappeared during the following one. A medical examination revealed a simple congestion of the vocal cords. The patient had had several similar attacks before coming to analysis.

The patient is a thirty-five year old single man who came to analysis with the predominating symptom of constipation. He is a fairly successful salesman who had been considerably more successful up until about five years ago at which time his overt aggressiveness in relation to other members of his firm caused him to be discharged, but after a few months reemployed at considerable reduction in salary. He is the third of four children having two older brothers and one younger sister. His father died when he was twelve. He has been the main support of his mother and has continued to live with her since his father's death.

At the time of this occurrence he was in the third month of analysis and was in a period of severe resistance against becoming conscious of his hostilities, particularly toward his father and two older brothers. During the analytic session, just preceding the onset of the laryngitis, the patient began the hour by telling me that he had no desire for breakfast and had not eaten because his mother was not at home to prepare the meal for him. Also he found it impossible to eat lunch.

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