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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.

Hollos, S. Ferenczi, S. Barnes, G.M. (1925). Translation. Psychoanal. Rev., 12(1):88-107.

(1925). Psychoanalytic Review, 12(1):88-107


Stefan Hollos, S. Ferenczi and Gertrude M. Barnes, A.B.

Translated by:
Günther Keil, A.M.

Psychoanalysis and the Psychic Disorder of General Paresis

I. Literary Preface

In wishing to prove that it is one of the greatest errors to wish to explain psychiatric symptoms psychologically, Nissl gives, among other examples, the following: “Although the general paretic apparently may offer the same pictures as those we observe in hysteria, in manic-depressive psychoses, or in paranoia, and so on, and although all symptoms, under certain circumstances, may disappear, also in the paretic, without leaving traces, nothing is known to me of psychological explanations. Here one accepts the same thing over which one is completely puzzled in other diseases, as something self-evident and necessary, which is founded in the very nature of the paretic process.” Nissl is right—not as regards representing all psychic phenomena of the paretic as self-evident, but in his contention that up to this time, hardly anyone has ventured to advance psychological analysis of the psychotic symptoms of general paresis.


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