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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.

Sterba, E. (1946). An Ill Bred Child. Psychoanal. Rev., 33(3):341-352.

(1946). Psychoanalytic Review, 33(3):341-352

An Ill Bred Child

Editha Sterba

In times when everyone is concerned with the problems of increasing juvenile delinquency, the presentation of a case in which at an early age the most common symptoms of delinquent acts in children were to be found, might give deeper insight into the structure and the technique of treatment of such cases.

Little eight-and-a-half year old Mary, who was in the third grade at school, was sent to my child guidance clinic because nobody could manage her; there was no one who could deal with her highly intractable nature. According to the school reports, Mary was entirely unsocial; she took absolutely no part in the lessons, never answered any of the questions and appeared to everyone to be feeble-minded.

I took little Mary under my own observation to determine whether she was really backward mentally, or whether a neurotic disturbance was merely making her seem so. When the little girl was first brought to me in my child guidance clinic, she gave me the impression of being feeble-minded. Fair, very weak, and delicate looking for her age, the little girl stood before me, utterly apathetic both in the expression on her face and in her general deportment; her under-lip hung out, she squinted, clenched both hands tightly in her muff, and would give no answer at all to any of my questions. Only when I asked her if she would come to see me in my office, where I had a play-room, did she say shortly and with great determination, “No!”.

At my request she was then sent for observation, for a few days, to the children's ward of the psychopathic hospital in order to rule cut any organic basis for her behavior. There, however, they stated that they were unable to come to any conclusion, since the little girl refused stubbornly to answer any questions. They considered that, “The child appeared, as the result of a weak and nervous constitution, to be entirely unsocial,” and recommended a stay in a convalescent home for children, later on, when her hostile attitude had lessened.

Mary came from a very poor and bad environment. The father was a traveling salesman, who was able to make his living only with great difficulty.

[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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