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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.

Bryan, D. (1920). Freud's Psychology. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 1:56-67.

(1920). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 1:56-67

Freud's Psychology

Douglas Bryan

The publication of Freud's views on mental functioning marks the beginning of a new era in psychology. It was impossible to read the older psychologies and at the same time really to feel that there existed a sound knowledge of the nature of the mind, or that its mechanisms had been fully grasped. There remained, on the contrary, a sense of voidness which could not be removed by simply memorising long words and involved sentences, and the gropings after enlightenment would usually end either in despair or in metaphysical speculations. Freud's psychology has altered all this, for although it necessitates our adopting a new attitude to the functioning of the mind, yet its principles are so intelligible, its hypotheses so demonstrably true, that the general acceptance of it can only be a matter of time.

There is no doubt that if Freud's views are in the future confirmed many old concepts in the realm of psychology will have to be revised, and the principles which he has enunciated will be made the bed-rock upon which psychology of the future will be built. Already we are finding that certain psychologists of to-day, who will not subscribe to the Freudian principles, are making covert use of these to describe mental mechanisms, and one can see that they feel deep within themselves the truth of his views, though they are loath to admit it. Those who have set themselves the task of investigating this new psychology in an unbiassed manner are unanimous in their opinion as to the truth of Freud's concepts. Still there is much work to be done, for if the Freudian psychology is to be the foundation of psychology of the future, no stone must be left unturned that might help in proving or disproving, as the case may be, the accuracy of Freud's individual statements.

[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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