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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.

List of Articles

Volume 20 (1992)

I Theoretical Studies
The Private Self and Private Space  1
Arnold H. Modell, M.D.
Discussion of Arnold Modell's “The Private Self and Private Space”  15
John E. Gedo, M.D.
The Self, In and Out of Relatedness  25
Alice Rosen Soref, M.A.
A Chronology of Freud's Writing His Psychological Works  49
George F. Mahl, Ph.D.
What an Affect Means: A Quasi-Experiment About Disgust  69
Robert M. Galatzer-Levy, M.D. and Mayer Gruber, Ph.D.
II Clinical Studies
Screen Language and Developmental Metaphor  95
Henry F. Smith, M.D.
On Being a Scientist or a Healer: Reflections on Abstinence, Neutrality, and Gratification  115
Ernest S. Wolf, M.D.
Abstinence, Neutrality, Gratification: New Trends, New Climates, New Implications  131
Kenneth M. Newman, M.D.
III Applied Psychoanalysis
The Childhood of an Artist  147
W. W. Meissner, SJ, M.D.
Silas Marner: Psychological Change in Fiction  171
Richard Almond, M.D.
Blutbrüderschaft and Self Psychology in D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love  191
James C. Cowan, Ph.D.
Ramakrishna and the Mystical Experience  215
Sudhir Kakar, Ph.D.
Mary Tyrone's Long Day's Journey into Night  235
Frank M. Lachmann, Ph.D. and Annette Lachmann, M.A.
Freud's Aesthetic Response to Michelangelo's Moses  245
Gary N. Goldsmith, M.D.
IV Psychoanalysis and Philosophy
Psychoanalysis and Commonsense Psychology  273
Andrew Brook, DPHIL
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