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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.

Lewin, B.D. (1955). Edward Hitschmann — An Appreciation. Bul. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 11:711-714.

(1955). Bulletin of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 11:711-714

Edward Hitschmann — An Appreciation

Bertram D. Lewin

Fifty years ago, in 1905, Edward Hitschmann registered at the University of Vienna for a course of lectures named "Einführung in die Psychotherapie." The lecturer was Sigmund Freud, and with inspired prescience, Hitschmann saved the "hearer's card" that admitted him to the lectures and to a new life. Freud invited him to join the study group that met each Wednesday evening at Freud's home, which included Federn, Stekel, Adler, Reitler, Meisl, and later Rank and Wittels. In the same fateful year, he read to this small coterie his first psychoanalytic lecture entitled "On Friendship."

The title was symbolic. For Freud was quick to appreciate Hitschmann's good qualities and to admit him to an uninterrupted friendship. Hitschmann, then thirty-four years of age, was already respected for his abilities as an internist. Beyond this, however, Freud was attracted by the younger man's interest in literature and the arts—by his deep knowledge and understanding of Goethe particularly—and by his wit and charm. Freud's effect on him, Hitschmann says, was "enormous"—a compact word, yet weak semantically through its very compactness. For Freud, then forty-nine years of age and in the full powers that had come to him from his years of development and analysis, beggars description by a word. This was the Freud, one might put it, who had published The Interpretation of Dreams only five years before. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life was one year old; the Three Contributions and the book on wit appeared in that very year of 1905. The important clinical publications were somewhat older, but the mere listing of these extraordinary performances conveys coldly the experience, Freud.

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