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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. (1921). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, July 19, 1921. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 60.

Freud, S. (1921). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, July 19, 1921. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 60

Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, July 19, 1921 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sigmund Freud

B Gastein
July 19, 1921
V Wassing1

Dear friend, I haven't written to you for a long time; I also, to be sure, waited for an intimate letter from you that didn't come. In its place came a letter from Lajos, which, in its matter-of-factness and assuredness, was able to calm me completely about the state of your health. He relates the recent wobbliness to Elma's departure; who knows if he isn't right. The endlessness of the demands of the libido!

Your work and that of your group has a very successful year behind you. You have heard this confirmed from many quarters. We can all be gratified by the progress of this work year. The propaganda has developed uncommonly, the Verlag has worked well, the journals are again at their peak. I didn't participate much personally, the Group Psychology was already in essence finished in September, and what was added is not well done. The work, nine hours a day, among them four to five in English, was rather too much for me. In the end it turns out that I don't bear it badly, and it had the advantage of making me at least nominally so rich that I don't need to deprive myself and my family of anything in the summer. The inflow of foreigners, especially of pupils, is so great that I hope next year to be able to make Rank and Reik secure as well. If it weren't for the language difficulties, we would have been able to divert a part of the increase to Budapest a long time ago. Perhaps a beginning can be made in the fall.

Although I am still inclined to regard every year and every month as the last of my existence, I still can't report about the beginning of a decision about the technical mechanism of the endgame. None of the seven organs is getting serious with its claim. I have also not gotten any stupider, only more indolent. In this vacation I am working on—nothing.

You ask about my September program. Seefeld in Tirol until about the 15th, then on to Hamburg—I don't know whether alone or with my wife—and then to the meeting, which still awaits further definition. Until then I still hope to hear from you often, so that room remains for all appointments.

I greet you and Frau G. cordially.



Notes to "Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, July 19, 1921"

1 The words “B Gastein” and “V Wassing” are written by hand above and below Freud's standard letterhead (IX., Berggasse 19).

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