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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. (1917). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, April 6, 1917. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919, 192-193.

Ferenczi, S. (1917). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, April 6, 1917. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sandor Ferenczi Volume 2, 1914-1919 , 192-193

Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, April 6, 1917 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sándor Ferenczi

Kurhaus Semmering Physikalisch-Dietätische Höhen-Kuranstalt

Kurhaus Semmering,
April 6, 1917

Dear Professor,

It happened the way you prophesied: Frau G. holds fast—despite constant emphasis on her inclination, indeed, her1 fervent wish, to marry me—to the idea to wait for Elma's return. She evidently wants to put us to a test—or to convince herself that she doesn't stand in her daughter's way. She used the way left open by you to write to me directly.—

For a few days I was under the depressing influence of this rejection. But for two days I have been forced to think of myself and my plans. Following your advice, I went to Wiener Neustadt2 yesterday and (I think) obtained an extension of my leave for a full four weeks, until May 12.

I am considerably better. My strength has increased, and my heart symptoms have improved significantly. Still, Dr. Kraus advises me, as a protection against relapse and to accelerate the healing process, to have an X ray (or a few) taken in Vienna. From that grows the “danger” that I will get “too healthy” and not accomplish anything with my plan to be examined for fitness for military service [Superarbitrierung].—I seem to have pushed a few other doubts onto this one, which is based on reality, for the alternative haunts me all day long. (I am pursuing the fitness test in order that I won't be so overburdened with work again.)

Dr. Pártos, the translator of your “Totem and Taboo,” writes me that he is finished with it.

[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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