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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.

Rosen, J.D. (1974-75). Differential Diagnosis in Clinical Psychiatry: The Lectures of Paul H. Hoch, M.D. Margaret O. Strahl and Nolan D. C. Lewis (Eds.). New York: Science House, 1972. 796 pp.. Psychoanal. Rev., 61(4):648-649.

(1974-75). Psychoanalytic Review, 61(4):648-649

Differential Diagnosis in Clinical Psychiatry: The Lectures of Paul H. Hoch, M.D. Margaret O. Strahl and Nolan D. C. Lewis (Eds.). New York: Science House, 1972. 796 pp.

Review by:
Joseph D. Rosen

This collection of lectures of Paul H. Hoch reflects his style, his superior knowledge, and his extraordinary ability to separate the essential from the nonessential. The lectures are grouped into five sections: an introduction to clinical psychiatry; alterations of consciousness perception and conception; organic reaction states; affective disorders; and schizophrenia. I remember listening to these lectures while preparing for the examination of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and being aware that other members of the audience were also spellbound and appreciative of Dr. Hoch's articulateness and ability to draw an accurate line between proven facts and appealing hypotheses. All of his statements were incisive and to the point; he was never ambiguous. He carefully gave each symptom his very detailed attention and transmitted his knowledge, training, and experience to a younger generation of psychiatrists and allied professionals with missionary zeal. This is one of the reasons why Paul Hoch received so much respect and affection from his students.

Clinical differential diagnosis cannot be taught in one book alone, but if any one book can help a trainee become proficient in this art, it is this book, because it transmits a great deal of practical and usable knowledge. Paul Hoch was always fascinated by the process of new technique and novel clinical interpretations and was able to communicate his integrity and his special talent for finding the most perfect definition.

I wish to draw special attention to the part of the book that deals with schizophrenia.

[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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