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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.

Harris, M. (2011). Chapter Twenty-One: Consultation project in a comprehensive school (1968). The Tavistock Model: Papers on Child Development and Psychoanalytic Training, 317-343.

Harris, M. (2011). Chapter Twenty-One: Consultation project in a comprehensive school (1968). The Tavistock Model: Papers on Child Development and Psychoanalytic Training, 317-343

Chapter Twenty-One: Consultation project in a comprehensive school (1968) Book Information Previous Up Next

Martha Harris

A two-year pilot project was initiated by Martha Harris and her husband Roland Harris at the latter's school (Woodberry Down Comprehensive in London) that eventually became the School Counsellors' Course at the Tavistock Centre. They believed that the diagnostic, prophylactic, and therapeutic potential of the school environment was capable of much more useful development, provided the school already had an established basis of good pastoral care. The areas demaracated in the project were: work with the staff, work with pupils, and liaison with the child guidance clinic. Informal as well as formal meetings took place, with both individuals and groups. The focus throughout is on practicality rather than perfection, given the complexity of the forces affecting children's development.

[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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