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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.

Longum, L. Schubert, J. Varvin, S. (1995). Psykoanalysen I Norge. Historie—utdannelse—behandling—forskning. (Psychoanalysis in Norway. History—training—treatment—research.): Randolf Alnæs. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry. Suppl 32, vol. 48, 1994. 103 pp.. Scand. Psychoanal. Rev., 18(1):97-103.

(1995). Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 18(1):97-103

Psykoanalysen I Norge. Historie—utdannelse—behandling—forskning. (Psychoanalysis in Norway. History—training—treatment—research.): Randolf Alnæs. Nordic Journal of Psychiatry. Suppl 32, vol. 48, 1994. 103 pp.

Review by:
Leif Longum

Johan Schubert and Sverre Varvin

Randolf Alnæs' monograph on Psychoanalysis in Norway invites differing interpretations depending on one's point of departure. We have therefore asked three reviewers to present their review of the book: Leif Longum, Professor in Scandinavian Literature at the University of Bergen, Norway, Johan Schubert, psychoanalyst from Stockholm and Sverre Varvin, Norwegian psychoanalyst.

Some years ago, Randolf Alnæs, Professor Emeritus and former co-editor of this journal, published “An historical overview” of “The Development of Psychoanalysis in Norway”, in English (The Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review, 3/1980). He has now written a revised, illustrated and greatly expanded Norwegian version, “Psychoanalysis in Norway”, with the subtitle “History, training, treatment, research.”

Professor Alnæs' monograph is mainly addressed to his colleagues. However, since psychoanalysis, in Norway as in other countries, has had far-reaching effects not only on the theories and treatment of nervous disorders, but also on education, child rearing, sexual morality, on literature and art, the story of how it was received and developed is of general interest as well. This review has to be read in this context.

My own background is in Scandinavian literature, and consequently I am not qualified to criticize Psychoanalysis in Norway as a history of a highly specialized profession.

[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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