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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. (1914). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, July 17, 1914. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919, 2-3.

Freud, S. (1914). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, July 17, 1914. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919 , 2-3

Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, July 17, 1914 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sigmund Freud

Karlsbad, July 17, 1914
Villa Fasolt, Schlossberg

Dear friend,

So here we are again, among the warm springs, enjoying heat and rain, as they come, and I can study how the influence on my intestinal function still extends to the monetary relationship derived from it.1 This time I don't feel the break with the past as clearly as usual; I am still thinking about work and have begun to study Macbeth, which has been tormenting me for a long time without my having found the solution as yet. Strange; years ago I relegated Macbeth to Jones,2 and now I am taking him back, as it were. Dark powers are at play here. Annerl sent a telegram yesterday, to the effect that she has arrived safely in Southhampton and was met by Ernest Jones. I took the opportunity to make clear to her my position on the matter right away, for the whole thing really doesn't suit me, and I don't want to lose the dear child to a clear act of revenge, irrespective of everything that speaks rationally against it. I think Loe will also keep watch like a dragon.3

A letter from Pfister4 the day before yesterday unexpectedly contains the assurance that he considers himself with us and is prepared to enter the Viennese group, if the Zurichers bring about the exit that they are planning.5 So there is the first piece of news, and it is good. The letter is circulating and will soon get to you.

Otherwise, naturally, nothing new. I will soon get into a few little papers on technique for the Zeitschrift.6


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