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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.

(1920). Editorial. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 1:3-5.

(1920). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1:3-5


We propose to say here something about the history and aims of the new Journal. In the past two years it has been repeatedly suggested, by workers in both America and England, that the time was ripe for the establishment of a special Journal in English devoted to Psycho-Analysis and this was also independently recognised by the editors of the Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse. The question was discussed, indeed, but postponed, at the last International Congress, at Munich in 1913. The main consideration, though not the only one, that has made this increasingly imperative is the unexpectedly great progress in recent years of the interest taken in our Science by readers not familiar with the German language, and the desirability of making accessible to them the latest researches in the subject. It has long been evident that a periodical published mainly in German could not indefinitely subserve the function of an official international organ, and, since interest in Psycho-Analysis has extended from German-speaking countries to English-speaking countries far more than to any other, it was only a question of time when such a Journal as the present one would have to be founded: with the cessation of the war, the resumption of scientific activities, and the reestablishment of contact between different countries, that time may be judged to have now arrived.

Of the suggestions referred to above, more than one were to the effect that a Psycho-Analytical Journal be founded as a private venture. The present Editor and others have advanced against this idea the following considerations. The multiplying of independent journals in the same subject, wasteful in its duplication of reviews and other editorial work, correspondingly restricted in circulation, and productive of much unnecessary trouble to readers who wish to search the literature, is in general one of the banes of scientific work; a strongly supported central organ, systematically and comprehensively codifying all that is published on the given subjects, is in every way preferable to inchoate dissipation of effort and dispersal of material.

[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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