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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.

Mahon, E.J. (2001). Anna Freud and the Evolution of Psychoanalytic Technique. Psychoanal. St. Child, 56:76-95.

(2001). Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, 56:76-95

Anna Freud and the Evolution of Psychoanalytic Technique

Eugene J. Mahon, M.D.

The Focus of this Paper is on the Evolution of Child Psychoanalytic technique and the contributions of Anna Freud's book on normality and pathology to this evolution. I will argue that two concepts in particular in that seminal work have influenced technique subtly and profoundly. I believe that the concept of developmental lines and the outline of a metapsychological profile force the analyst into a state of therapeutic readiness whereby he is always assessing developmental and dynamic considerations that lead to changes in technique and guard against complacency and involutional therapeutic tendencies. If there is a complementary series of incremental nodal points that construct the components of pathology, one could argue that normality is constructed similarly, as epigenetic developmental strata and lines become more advanced, coherent, and integrated. The developmentally informed analyst is always assessing the normality and pathology of clinical process: his technique is constantly being influenced consciously and preconsciously by Anna Freudian insights about developmental lines and metapsychological assessments.


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