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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. (1916). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, January 24, 1916. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919, 106-108.

Ferenczi, S. (1916). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, January 24, 1916. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919 , 106-108

Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, January 24, 1916 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sándor Ferenczi

Budapest, January 24, 1916

Dear Professor,

I know, to be sure, that “arguments are as plenty as blackberries” (I have heard that often enough from you),1 but I couldn't prevent rational objections against your tip (not to analyze during action) from arising in me. I thought to myself: better during than after a—perhaps useless—act.—So far the “consciousness” that I allowed to come to expression without following it. In reality, I simply followed your well-meant advice and expedited the decision with Frau G. in a positive sense. (She would like to wait until Elma's return from America [month of May], since she promised to take her if she [Elma]2 didn't feel happy in marriage. I am protesting vehemently against this delay, but I can't completely conceal my inner division to Frau G.). A bad—neurotically exacerbated, I presume—malaise in Frau G. this past week probably showed me something out of her disturbed ucs.—Consciously, she is as kind and dear as ever.—

Frau G. will get in touch with you by letter one of these days. Forgive the effort and bother that is expected of you as a father-imago.

You write in your last letter that I didn't discover “the most important thing” [das Entscheidende] in the cigarette case dream. In reading the letter I made a slip: I read: “das Einschneidende” [the cutting-in]; this then led to associations to birth and castration fantasies.

That the latter make a strong contribution to my present constitution is proved, among other things, by painful erections along with faltering Ψ.

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