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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.

Van Nieuwenhove, K. Notaerts, L. (2019). Een weg uit de impasse van single case onderzoek. Tijdschr. Psychoanal., 25(1):27-36.

(2019). Tijdschrift voor Psychoanalyse, 25(1):27-36

Een weg uit de impasse van single case onderzoek

Kimberly Van Nieuwenhove en Liza Notaerts


A way out of the dead end of single case research

Case study research involves the study of the particularity and complexity of a single case in order to attain an in-depth understanding of its dynamics within relevant contexts. It has been assumed that case studies play a crucial role in bridging the well-known « science-practice gap » because they allow research findings to reach clinicians and translate to clinical practice more easily. Unfortunately, the gap between researchers and practitioners remains. The focus of this paper is on the current difficulties that researchers and clinicians encounter in case study research that are possibly related to this stagnation. Inter alia, attention is given to the reductionism that is unavoidably attached to the operationalism of psychoanalytic constructs and the confrontation with specific publishing guidelines that are difficult to reconcile with the establishment of a clinically relevant knowledge base. Further consideration is given to how this lack of clinical relevance leads to clinicians not being informed by academic research, and the problem of accessibility of case studies. In conclusion, a few suggestions are offered for better integration of the empirical, theoretical and clinical interests in the field so that case studies can deliver their full potential.

Key words: case study, clinical relevance, science-practice gap

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the article. PEP-Web provides full-text search of the complete articles for current and archive content, but only the abstracts are displayed for current content, due to contractual obligations with the journal publishers. For details on how to read the full text of 2017 and more current articles see the publishers official website.]

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