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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. (1910). The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XI (1910): Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Leonardo da Vinci and Other Works, 153-162.

Freud, S. (1910). [SEK153a1]The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XI (1910): Five Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, Leonardo da Vinci and Other Works, 153-162

[SEK153a1]The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words Book Information Previous Up Next Language Translation

Sigmund Freud

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[SEK153a2]Editor's Note to "The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words"

[SEK153a3](a)German Editions:

[SEK153a4]1910 Über Den Gegensinn Der Urworte Jb. psychoan. psychopath. Forsch., 2 (1), 179-184.

[SEK153a5]1913 Über Den Gegensinn Der Urworte S.K.S.N., 3, 280-287. (2nd ed. 1921.)

[SEK153a6]1924 Über Den Gegensinn Der Urworte G.S., 10, 221-228.

[SEK153a7]1943 Über Den Gegensinn Der Urworte G.W., 8, 214-221.

[SEK153a8](b)English Translation:

[SEK153a9]‘“The Antithetical Sense of Primal Words”’ 1925 C.P., 4, 184-191. (Tr. M. N. Scarl.)

[SEK153a10]The present translation with a modified title, ‘The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words’, is a new one by Alan Tyson.

[SEK153a11]We are told by Ernest Jones (1955, 347) that Freud came across Abel's pamphlet in the autumn of 1909. He was particularly pleased by the discovery, as is shown by the many references he made to it in his writings. In 1911, for instance, he added a footnote on it to The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), Standard Ed., 4, 318, and he summarized it at some length in two passages in his Introductory Lectures (1916-17), Lectures XI and XV. The reader should bear in mind the fact that Abel's pamphlet was published in 1884 and it would not be surprising if some of his findings were not supported by later philologists. This is especially true of his Egyptological comments, which were made before Erman had put Egyptian philology for the first time on a scientific basis.

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