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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. (1920). Dr. Anton Von Freund. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVIII (1920-1922): Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology and Other Works, 267-268.

Freud, S. (1920). [SER267a1]Dr. Anton Von Freund. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVIII (1920-1922): Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Group Psychology and Other Works, 267-268

[SER267a1]Dr. Anton Von Freund Book Information Previous Up Next Language Translation

Sigmund Freud

[SER267a2]Dr. Anton Von Freund, who has been General Secretary of the International Psycho-Analytical Association since the Budapest Congress in September 1918, died on January 20, 1920, in a Vienna sanatorium, a few days after completing his fortieth year. He was the most powerful promoter of our science and one of its brightest hopes. Born in Budapest in 1880, he obtained a doctorate in philosophy. He intended to become a teacher, but was persuaded to enter his father's industrial undertaking. But the great successes he attained as a manufacturer and organizer failed to satisfy the two needs which were active in the depths of his nature—for social benefaction and scientific activity. Seeking nothing for himself, and possessing every gift which can charm and captivate, he used his material powers to assist others and to soften the hardness of their destiny as well as to sharpen in all directions the sense of social justice. In this way he acquired a wide circle of friends, who will deeply mourn his loss

[SER267a3]When, during his last years, he came to know psycho-analysis, it seemed to him to promise the fulfilment of his two great wishes. He set himself the task of helping the masses by psycho-analysis and of making use of the therapeutic effects of that medical technique, which had hitherto only been at the service of the rich, in order to mitigate the neurotic sufferings of the poor. Since the State took no heed of the neuroses of the common people, since hospital clinics for the most part rejected psycho-analytic therapy without being able to offer any substitute for it, and since the few psycho-analytic physicians, tied by the necessity for maintaining themselves, were unequal to such a gigantic task, Anton von Freund sought, by his private initiative, to open a path for every one towards the fulfilment of this important social duty.

[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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