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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.

Freud, S. Breuer, J. (1908). Preface to the Second Edition of Studies on Hysteria. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume II (1893-1895): Studies on Hysteria, xxxi.

Freud, S. and Breuer, J. (1908). [SEBxxxia1]Preface to the Second Edition of Studies on Hysteria. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume II (1893-1895): Studies on Hysteria, xxxi

[SEBxxxia1]Preface to the Second Edition of Studies on Hysteria Book Information Previous Up Next

Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer

[SEBxxxia2]Preface to the Second Edition

[SEBxxxia3]The interest which, to an ever-increasing degree, is being directed to psycho-analysis seems now to be extending to these Studies on Hysteria. The publisher desires to bring out a new edition of the book, which is at present out of print. It appears now in a reprint, without any alterations, though the opinions and methods which were put forward in the first edition have since undergone far-reaching and profound developments. So far as I personally am concerned, I have since that time had no active dealings with the subject; I have had no part in its important development and I could add nothing fresh to what was written in 1895. So I have been able to do no more than express a wish that my two contributions to the volume should be reprinted without alteration.


[SEBxxxia5]As regards my share of the book, too, the only possible decision has been that the text of the first edition shall be reprinted without alteration. The developments and changes in my views during the course of thirteen years of work have been too far-reaching for it to be possible to attach them to my earlier exposition without entirely destroying its essential character. Nor have I any reason for wishing to eliminate this evidence of my initial views. Even to-day I regard them not as errors but as valuable first approximations to knowledge which could only be fully acquired after long and continuous efforts. The attentive reader will be able to detect in the present book the germs of all that has since been added to the theory of catharsis: for instance, the part played by psychosexual factors and infantilism, the importance of dreams and of unconscious symbolism. And I can give no better advice to any one interested in the development of catharsis into psycho-analysis than to begin with Studies on Hysteria and thus follow the path which I myself have trodden.



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