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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.

Appelbaum, S.A. (1966). The Kennedy Assassination. Psychoanal. Rev., 53C(3):69-80.

(1966). Psychoanalytic Review, 53C(3):69-80

The Kennedy Assassination

Stephen A. Appelbaum, Ph.D.

A group dynamics class, convened for twenty meetings to study the psychology of groups through the method of observing itself, met for the ninth time two weeks after the death of President Kennedy. That meeting was spent in mourning, but with the leader of the group rather than the President the object of the members' feelings of loss, guilt, anger and fear. Even between patient and individual psychotherapist, such an early intense emotional involvement would not be expected. Its seemingly premature occurrence between student-psychiatrists and their teacher-group leader requires an explanation and offers an opportunity for increased understanding of group process and its relationship to psychoanalysis.

In Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego,8 Freud suggests that a group comes about through identification of the members with one another, based upon an emotional tie with the leader. In Totem and Taboo5 he suggests that the emotional tie is a legacy from the prehistoric killing of the leader-father by the band of brothers in order to break the father's sexual monopoly, and that this fateful act, followed by remorse and penitential renunciation of parricide and incest, supplies a basis for the group living which we call the family.

[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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