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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.

Ferenczi, S. (1915). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, July 24, 1915. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919, 70-72.

Ferenczi, S. (1915). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, July 24, 1915. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919 , 70-72

Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, July 24, 1915 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sándor Ferenczi

Pápa, July 24, 1915

Dear Professor,

Lacking better paper, I am writing on my ordinary note paper1 and intend to reply to your communications in order. I owe you a reply because I have been away for five days; they ordered me to Sopron (ödenburg),2 to function as a recruitment physician. There have been so many cases of bribery there (as elsewhere) that they are now customarily sending physicians from other garrisons to recruitment duty. I was also able to spend a day in Pest and in so doing circumvent the commandant's aversion to granting leave. But more about that later.

Your remark that you would like to have heard more critique about the plan of work that you call phylogenetic fantasy is justified. I was merely expressing my joy over the fact that my ontogenetic fantasies so quicky received a phylogenetic sister. Even now I cannot say much more, but I find the analogy between the presumed phases in the development of mankind and the neuroses extraordinarily seductive.

The anxiety phase, the hysteria and obsession phase—also, by the way, presumed in the case of the child—dawned on me immediately. What is quite new and surprising is the parallel drawn between the struggle against the father and the later types of neurosis. The religious phase of mankind (which still persists), with the exaggerated sense of sin, seems to be the last offshoot of melancholia. Psychoanalysis signifies man's convalescence, the emancipation from religion, from (unjustified) authority, and from the exaggerated rebellion against it; thus, the beginning of the scientific (objective) phase.

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