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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.

Greenberg, R. Pearlman, C. (1978). If Freud Only Knew: A Reconsideration of Psychoanalytic Dream Theory. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 5:71-75.

(1978). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 5:71-75

If Freud Only Knew: A Reconsideration of Psychoanalytic Dream Theory

R. Greenberg and C. Pearlman

In 'On Narcissism' Freud (1914) discussed the problem of formulating psychoanalytic ideas. He noted: 'These ideas are not the foundation of science, upon which everything rests: that foundation is observation alone. They are not the bottom but the top of the whole structure, and can be replaced and discarded without damaging it' (p.77). This comment is important in considering some of the questions we are going to raise about Freud's theories of dreaming. These theories are well established, have been codified and repeatedly presented without serious reconsideration of their observational base. Since their original formulation many new observations about dreaming have accrued and with the benefit of some of these observations we are going to reconsider certain aspects of Freud's theory.

We shall discuss some observations about the Irma dream of which Freud was apparently unaware. This dream has been a kind of touchstone originally presented by Freud as a prime example of his wish-fulfilment theory and then reconsidered by Erikson in an effort to enlarge our understanding of the process of dreaming and dream formation. We shall discuss some additional material about this dream reported by Schur (1966), and on the basis of an expanded field of observation raise questions about some of our basic concepts of dreaming.

To begin, we should note that in 'The Interpretation of Dreams' Freud (1900) clearly demonstrated the meaningfulness of dreams. He frequently interpreted his own dreams to show this meaning and from them derived theories about the mechanisms of dream formation and dream function.

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