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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. (1930). Preface to Ten Years of the Berlin Psycho-Analytic Institute. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XXI (1927-1931): The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and its Discontents, and Other Works, 257.

Freud, S. (1930). [SEU257a1]Preface to Ten Years of the Berlin Psycho-Analytic Institute. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XXI (1927-1931): The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and its Discontents, and Other Works, 257

[SEU257a1]Preface to Ten Years of the Berlin Psycho-Analytic Institute Book Information Previous Up Next Language Translation

Sigmund Freud

[SEU257a2]The following pages describe the founding and achievements of the Berlin Psycho-Analytic Institute, to which are allotted three important functions within the psycho-analytic movement. First, it endeavours to make our therapy accessible to the great multitude who suffer under their neuroses no less than the wealthy, but who are not in a position to meet the cost of their treatment. Secondly, it seeks to provide a centre at which analysis can be taught theoretically and at which the experience of older analysts can be handed on to pupils who are anxious to learn. And lastly, it aims at perfecting our knowledge of neurotic illnesses and our therapeutic technique by applying them and testing them under fresh conditions.

[SEU257a3]An Institute of this kind was indispensable; but we should have waited in vain for assistance from the State or interest from the University in its foundation. Here the energy and self-sacrifice of an individual analyst took the initiative. Ten years ago, Dr. Max Eitingon, now President of the International Psycho-Analytical Association, created an Institute such as this from his own resources, and has since then maintained and directed it by his own efforts. This Report on the first decade of the Berlin Institute is a tribute to its creator and director—an attempt to render him public thanks. Everyone who, in whatever sense, has a share in psycho-analysis will unite in thus thanking him.

[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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