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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.

(2017). Giacomo Rizzolatti. Psicoter. Sci. Um., 51(1):126.

(2017). Psicoterapia e Scienze Umane, 51(1):126

Giacomo Rizzolatti

Il problema sollevato da Lewis- Fernández et al. nell'editoriale a pp. 507–509 del n. 6/2016 del British Journal of Psychiatry su quali ricerche devono essere finanziate è un problema che riguarda gli Stati Uniti e forse qualche Paese europeo, ma non l'Italia. Da noi non esistono, infatti, delle agenzie nazionali che distribuiscono fondi per la ricerca medica, come il National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), o fondi per quella generale, come il National Institute of Health (NIH). I fondi per la ricerca di base, distribuite dal Ministero dell'Istruzione, dell'Università e della Ricerca (MIUR), sono virtualmente inesistenti, mentre quelli per la ricerca medica applicata sono legati agli Istituzioni di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS), quindi a realtà molto settoriali. Il problema della competizione diretta tra neuroscienze di base e ricerca applicata in Italia non si pone.

Dagli esempi che si ricavano dal testo di Lewis-Fernadez et al. i problemi “applicativi” che gli autori vorrebbero che fossero finanziati non sono in realtà psichiatrici (in senso medico), ma piuttosto di tipo sociale. Un esempio: «Una parte sostanziale dei disturbi mentali dei bambini e lo scarso rendimento scolastico potrebbero essere migliorati insegnando abilità ai genitori e diversi stili di vita quotidiana. La ricerca sulla prevenzione dovrebbe anche identificare strategie per diminuire gli effetti delle cause sociali e ambientali che scatenano la malattia mentale» (p.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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