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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.

de Saussure, R. (1920). Dr. Bonjour, La Psychanalyse. (Bibliothèque Universelle, Lausanne 1920, p. 226 à 240 et 337 à 354.): Dr. Bonjour, „Les Rěves“, (ibidem 1920, p. 203 à 224.). Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 6(3):284-285.

(1920). Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 6(3):284-285

Dr. Bonjour, La Psychanalyse. (Bibliothèque Universelle, Lausanne 1920, p. 226 à 240 et 337 à 354.): Dr. Bonjour, „Les Rěves“, (ibidem 1920, p. 203 à 224.)

Review by:
R. de Saussure

„Tout médecin vraiment au courant de la psychologie ne peut pas nier que la psychoanalyse lui offre une puissance de pénétration dans l'esprit du malade qui, dans bien des cas, rend un interrogatoire minutieux et approfondi complètement superflu.“ On s'étonne qu'après une telle déclaration Bonjour puisse encore écrire: „Plus on soupèse ces actes psychiques, qu'ils s'appellent refoulement, substitution, conversion, sublimation …, plus on les sent légers; on ne se rend pas compte, au fond, de ce qu'ils signifient.“ En comparant ces deux citations on ne peut faire autrement que de se demander si B. est vraiment sincère dans ses critiques! B. ne voit dans la psychanalyse qu'une forme de suggestion qui permet au malade de rationaliser certaines idées qui le troublent.

Dans son article sur les rěves B. soutient la thèse que le rěve n'est que le produit d'une irritation du corps ou du cerveau. C'est de ce point de vue physiologique — qu'il base sur les célébres expériences des „rěves induits“ de Maury —, que B. voudrait critiquer la théorie psychologique de Freud. C'est là une grave erreur de méthode; car quelle que soit l'irritation physique, elle n'expliquera que très imparfaitement le contenu psychologique du rěve. Voici un rěve qui montrera facilement l'insuffisance de l'explication de B.

[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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