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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.

Kris, E. Greenacre, P. Freud, A. Hartmann, H. Lewin, B.D. Escalona, S. Loewenstein, R.M. Jacobson, E. Spitz, R.A. Waelder, R. Davison, C. Bell, A. Mittelmann, B. Mahler, M.S. Bychowski, G. (1954). Problems of Infantile Neurosis—A Discussion. Psychoanal. St. Child, 9:16-71.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 9:16-71

Problems of Infantile Neurosis—A Discussion

Ernst Kris, Phyllis Greenacre, Anna Freud, Heinz Hartmann, Bertram D. Lewin, Sibylle Escalona, Rudolph M. Loewenstein, Edith Jacobson, Rene A. Spitz, Robert Waelder, Charles Davison, Anita Bell, Bela Mittelmann, Margaret S. Mahler and Gustav Bychowski


Ladies and Gentlemen. It is my privilege to open the first of the three extraordinary sessions of the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute. The topic of today's symposium has been repeatedly suggested for discussion. It was among the topics submitted to the Program Committee of the last two International Congresses. It was then felt that the topic was better suited for a discussion by a more homogeneous group of analysts, so that unavoidable misunderstandings could be more easily clarified, and the existing diversity of opinion could readily be viewed in its relation to substantial agreements on basic principles of psychoanalytic thought.

Such a homogeneous group is assembled here around a guest, honored by all, beloved by many, in order to carry on an exchange of opinion without fear of controversy. On the contrary, we hope to stimulate some controversy, if only as a starting point, controversy moderated by the secure knowledge of the collective commitment. It is in this sense that we have come together to submit views to Miss Freud, and to tell her of our reactions to her own work.

The topic announced by the committee for the arrangement of this meeting is both wide and vague. The title may suggest several lines of thought. One may think of the infantile neurosis reconstructed and revived during the analysis of adult patients, or one may think of the neuroses of childhood. This is obviously more than a verbal or grammatical duplicity. These seem to be two different topics, and yet these two different topics are inseparably intertwined.

From a very early date in Freud's work, the psychoanalytic study of childhood has been conducted by two methods; by the reconstruction of childhood experience on the one hand, and by observation and treatment of the growing child on the other.

[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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