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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.

Jekels, L. (1939). In Memoriam Sigmund Freud. Psychoanal Q., 8:410-411.

(1939). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 8:410-411

In Memoriam Sigmund Freud

Ludwig Jekels

Now that fate has broken the bonds that for many decades existed between Freud and his oldest pupils, I cannot refrain from dedicating a few reverent and heartfelt words to Freud, the man. I have in mind not only the man as revealed through his writings but Freud as we saw him and lived with him in our frequent intimate contacts.

You may think me mystic when I contend that it is altogether fitting that this man should have left the world at this very time. I say it not because Freud had reached an advanced age and had suffered from a severe illness; for we must remember that his forebears lived long and that he withstood his illness for a period of almost twenty years. What I wish to say is that it seems wholly natural that this man whose entire being was devoted to the noblest principles of humanism should abandon this world at a time when the crassest contradictions to these principles prevail.

Thirst for truth and love are the fundamentals of humanism. They pave the way to that broader understanding of fellow men which is the mainstay of humanism. Freud's immense drive to learn the truth reveals itself in the story of his research and in his uncompromising battle for the verification and assertion of the truth as he saw it. This was acknowledged by an honored although immutable opponent of Freud's teaching when Dr. Beep, professor of theology at the Catholic University of Freibrug, stated: 'Freud is a fanatical searcher for the truth and I believe he would not hesitate to unveil it even though it should cost him his life'.

As to love, did not Freud's work reclaim for mankind the right to love? Did he not elevate love to the level of a legitimate, vital and natural factor of life? This he saw fit to do at a time when love was given recognition only by poets and was more generally regarded as a play of the imagination, a whim or a mood.

[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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