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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.

Lanes, M.A. (1951). Mikrdrll, Wm. H. (Editor.) Modern Abnormal Psychology. [New York: Philosophical Library, 1950. Pp. xi + 880. $10.00.]. Psychoanal. Rev., 38(2):199.

(1951). Psychoanalytic Review, 38(2):199

Mikrdrll, Wm. H. (Editor.) Modern Abnormal Psychology. [New York: Philosophical Library, 1950. Pp. xi + 880. $10.00.]

Review by:
Mariette A. Lanes

This book encompasses the latest established principles and the latest theories advanced in the field of abnormal psychology. The background for these principles and discoveries is set by a brief discussion of the history of the subject. Although this is a symposium consisting of twenty-four chapters, written by different authors, the subject matter has been arranged in such a way as to develop and elaborate upon the subject in proper sequence. Each chapter has been edited to provide uniformity and simplicity of exposition. As in most instances of a symposium type book, some chapters are better than others, but on the whole the selection of subjects presented was of great importance. The discussions were in general interesting, well treated and valuable. The method of approach and language are clear enough to render this book valuable to the lay person and to the student who would seek to keep abreast of the latest findings in the search for the causes and meaning of abnormal psychology.

[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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