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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, March 9, 1916. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919, 118-119.

Ferenczi, S. (1916). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, March 9, 1916. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919 , 118-119

Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, March 9, 1916 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sándor Ferenczi

[Budapest,] Thursday, March 9, 1916

Dear Professor,

One can't demand and expect any objectivity, at most, honesty, from a patient. For that reason I know at the outset that you don't take everything that I write about myself at face value. Nevertheless, I will continue my reports.

As I see things now, my physical suffering—the disturbed nasal breathing, which has lasted for many years with alternating intensity—stands in the center as the nucleus of my ailments; the psychic symptoms are, I believe, secondary. I always knew that the greatest significance is ascribed to oxygen in the pleasure-unpleasure workings of the psyche; a serious disturbance in breathing can have libidinal disturbances as a consequence, especially during the act of coitus itself, which creates an increased need for air in respiration. That seems to have been the beginning of my turning away from Frau G. I misunderstood the tiredness and feelings of unpleasure after sexual intercourse with her and believed that I am tired of her. Recently my shortness of breath has increased significantly; I was only occupied with my dear ego (Dr. Zwillinger ascertained that the operation on my nasal septum was not successful, and a membrane is obstructing the nasal passages).

In this state, which I again misunderstood, I sent Frau G. away from me. When she came again on Sunday, and I artificially provided for free breathing, I was to her as in the best of times. I think our letters will cross; but it was incumbent upon me to tell you this soon. This state of affairs has pleasantly surprised me and freed me of great concerns.

But the other concern is still there. On Zwillinger's advice I should go to Berlin to Killian,1 the best nose specialist in Germany. If I travel by way of Vienna, I will visit you before this excursion.

For no. 2, I still want to write a few little things before my departure, among them the interesting case of a man who, in childhood (three years old), was really castrated (circumcised).2 A counterpart to the Little Rooster-Man. This operation became the fate of this man. All his affects take place in defense of castration, as it were: (more [or] less strong retraction of the penis; obsessional impulses to grasp someone's penis in order to fondle it or pull it out, etc.).

Here is a clipping from a newspaper, which Elma sent from America.3

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