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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. (1913). Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics (1913 [1912-13]). The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIII (1913-1914): Totem and Taboo and Other Works, vii-162.

Freud, S. (1913). [SEMviia1]Totem and Taboo. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIII (1913-1914): Totem and Taboo and Other Works, vii-162

[SEMviia1]Totem and Taboo: [SEMviia2]Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics (1913 [1912-13]) Book Information Previous Up Next Language Translation

Sigmund Freud

[SEMviia3]Editor's Note to "Totem and Taboo: Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics (1913 [1912-13])"

[SEMviia4]Totem Und Tabu in 1955

[SEMviia5](a) GERMAN EDITIONS:

[SEMviia6]1912 Part I, Imago, 1 (1), 17-33. (Under the title ‘Über einige Übereinstimmungen im Scelenleben der Wilden und der Neurotiker’ [‘Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics’].)

[SEMviia7]1912 Part II, Imago, 1 (3), 213-27 and (4), 301-33. (Under the title ‘Über einige Übereinstimmungen im Scelenleben der Wilden und der Neurotiker’ [‘Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics’].)

[SEMviia8]1913 Part III, Imago, 2 (1), 1-21. (Under the title ‘Über einige Übereinstimmungen im Scelenleben der Wilden und der Neurotiker’ [‘Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics’].)

[SEMviia9]1913 Part IV, Imago, 2 (4), 357-408. (Under the title ‘Über einige Übereinstimmungen im Scelenleben der Wilden und der Neurotiker’ [‘Some Points of Agreement between the Mental Lives of Savages and Neurotics’].)

[SEMviia10]1913 In one volume, under the title Totem und Tabu, Leipzig and Vienna: Heller. Pp. v + 149.

[SEMviia11]1920 2nd ed. Leipzig, Vienna and Zurich: Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag. Pp. vii + 216.

[SEMviia12]1922 3rd ed. Leipzig, Vienna and Zurich: I.P.V. Pp. vii + 216.

[SEMviia13]1924 G.S., 10, 3-194.

[SEMviia14]1934 5th ed. Vienna: I.P.V. Pp. 194.

[SEMviia15]1940 G.W., 9. Pp. 1-205.

[SEMviia16]1934 ‘Vorrede zur hebräischen Ausgabe von Totem und Tabu.’ G.S., 12, 385.

[SEMviia17]1948 G.W., 14, 569.

[SEMviia18](b) ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS:

[SEMviia19]Totem and Taboo 1918 New York: Moffat, Yard. Pp. xi + 265. (Tr. A. A. Brill.)

[SEMviia20]Totem and Taboo 1919 London: Routledge. Pp. xi + 265. (Tr. A. A. Brill.)

[SEMviia21]Totem and Taboo 1938 London and New York: Penguin Books. Pp. 159. (Tr. A. A. Brill.)

[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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