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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.

Jones, E. (1957). Freud and Religious Belief: By the Reverend H. L. Philp, Ph.D. (London: Rockliff, 1956. Pp. 140. 18s.). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 38:125-126.

(1957). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 38:125-126

Freud and Religious Belief: By the Reverend H. L. Philp, Ph.D. (London: Rockliff, 1956. Pp. 140. 18s.)

Review by:
Ernest Jones

This book is the most completely adverse criticism possible of Freud's views on religion. Many such have already been published, but presumably the author considers that with Freud's prestige the harm his views might do in the religious field is such as to call for yet another counterblast. The book is well written and gives on the whole a very fair account of Freud's writings on the subject. These are then criticized in full detail.

Dr. Philp expresses great admiration for Freud as a man, for his honesty and courage, but he holds that everything Freud wrote on the subject of religion was woefully mistaken. He made no contribution whatever to the psychology of religion. His main stricture on Freud's writings in this field is that Freud had a totally wrong conception of what religion really is: he confounded religious beliefs with religion itself. 'If what Freud described as religion covers all that religion is, it ought to be destroyed.' This is a strong statement. The beliefs that Freud suggested might be illusory, i.e. brought about by the process of wish-fulfilment, were: the belief in immortality; the belief in the existence of God, with the accompanying emotions of love, awe, and fear in relation to Him; and the Christian belief that a particular possibility had been offered men of salvation from their sins and sinful conscience. There were, it is true, other aspects of religion which Freud admitted to neglecting in The Future of an Illusion, but he made good this omission in his later writings.

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