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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.

Colby, K.M. (1951). On the Disagreement between Freud and Adler. Am. Imago, 8(3):229-238.

(1951). American Imago, 8(3):229-238

On the Disagreement between Freud and Adler

Kenneth Mark Colby, M.D.

That Freud and Adler were at one time colleagues who parted ways is well known. The partisan emotions aroused by their disagreement still echo. Indeed, feelings have obscured the facts to a degree that today few are acquainted with the setting of the dispute or the precise content of the scientific differences which led to a permanent break between the two men.

Freud1 has given an account of Adler's secession from the psychoanalytic group along with a critique of his theories. A biography of Adler by Bottome2 presents Adler's side and describes the relationship between them prior to the separation. According to Bottome an article appeared in Vienna's Neue Freie Presse ridiculing Freud's book, Die Traum-deutung. Adler, then unknown to Freud, wrote a reply in the same publication defending Freud's views. Freud sent Adler a postcard asking him to join the psychoanalytic discussion group. Bottome comments, “this postcard has a certain importance since it shows quite clearly that Adler was never a pupil of Freud's, as his opponents always claim, and never had a didactic analysis.”

Exactly when this occurred is not clear. At one point Bottome states that Adler had “joined the psychoanalysts in 1900.” Freud1 reports: “From the year 1902 onwards a number of young medical men gathered around me with the express intention of learning, practising, and spreading knowledge of psychoanalysis. The stimulus came from a colleague who had himself experienced the beneficial effect of analytic therapy.” Stekel3 says he was the stimulus who suggested the founding of a discussion group.

[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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