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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.

Meltzer, D. (1973). Chapter Five: The Psychopathology of Adolescence. Adolescence: Talks and Papers by Donald Meltzer and Martha Harris, 61-74.

Meltzer, D. (1973). Chapter Five: The Psychopathology of Adolescence. Adolescence: Talks and Papers by Donald Meltzer and Martha Harris , 61-74

Chapter Five: The Psychopathology of Adolescence Book Information Previous Up Next

Donald Meltzer

Adolescence can be viewed from a certain perspective as a place where we have been and which we have passed through during a phase of our lives. We are still trying to understand what happened at the time. We have seen the four “communities” within which the adolescent moves: the adolescent community; the family and the parents; the isolated adolescent; how the adolescent feels about the adult world which he desires to enter; and the continuous movement between these communities. As I have said, the individual usually moves between these four communities and eventually finds the path which proves to be the way out. I will now try to describe the psychopathological characteristics of an adolescent representative of each these four communities, bearing in mind the risk that he or she runs of remaining in a fixed position and not being able to emerge from it.


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