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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.

F., J.C. (1932). On the Nightmare: By Ernest Jones. (Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis. International Psycho-Analytical Library. No. 20 1931. Pp. 374. Price 21 s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 13:225-231.

(1932). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 13:225-231

On the Nightmare: By Ernest Jones. (Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis. International Psycho-Analytical Library. No. 20 1931. Pp. 374. Price 21 s.)

Review by:
J. C. F.

For nearly twenty years it has been something of a scandal that one of the most interesting works of the foremost English-speaking exponent of psycho-analysis (for no one will deny Ernest Jones this title) has not been available in English. Der Alptraum was originally published as one of the valuable Schriften zur angewandten Seelenkunde in 1912, and is incorporated (with alterations and additions) in the present book, in which it makes its first appearance in an English dress. It is doubtless a sign of the relatively slow realization of the sociological importance of psycho-analysis that it should have had to wait so long, for those who knew the work could scarcely fail to recognize that it was one of the most impressive contributions of psycho-analysis to social and historical science. In spite of its wealth of erudition and its restraint of expression (in the field that easily lends itself to a somewhat exaggerated emotionalism), it is yet in its way inevitably something of a 'thriller'; it fascinates (as any adequate treatment of its theme must do), inasmuch as the things it deals with, like the nightmare itself, are essentially compounded of attractive and repulsive elements. The Alptraum portion of the book is preceded by the essay on the Pathology of the Nightmare, originally published in the American Journal of Insanity in 1910. This now forms a general introductory section. The book also contains a new and hitherto unpublished part dealing with certain philological aspects of the subject; while the short conclusion formerly attached to the Alptraum now brings the whole work to an end.

[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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