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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.

Fine, R. (1971). The basic fault. Michael Balint. London: Tavistock, 1968. vii+205 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 58(2):319-321.

(1971). Psychoanalytic Review, 58(2):319-321

The basic fault. Michael Balint. London: Tavistock, 1968. vii+205 pp.

Review by:
Reuben Fine

Contrary to what many believe, the varieties of “classical” analysis are almost endless. Beyond a few main points of agreement, such as putting the patient on the couch (even that is not invariable) and having him free associate (not too clearly defined) there is wide latitude among practitioners. Anna Freud has pointed out that in the technical seminars in Vienna in the 1920's when beginning therapists were asked to present their cases, they began the first few sessions in similar ways, then drifted off very quickly into their own individual styles. Glover in his survey of the British Psychoanalytic Association in 1938 has documented in his book on technique the many divergencies found even among a group as closely knit as the British was at that time (almost all had been analyzed by Ernest Jones). And the notorious survey of the American Psychoanalytic Association came to an ill-fated end after the expenditure of much time and huge sums of money because it could not cope statistically with the enormous variations in style among the members.

Primarily this state of affairs can be traced to the influence of Freud on the history of psychoanalytic thought. All analysis today is character analysis. Yet Freud, who laid the foundations for it, practiced symptom analysis most of his life.

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