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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. (1923). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, April 17, 1923. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 102.

Freud, S. (1923). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, April 17, 1923. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 102

Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, April 17, 1923 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sigmund Freud

Vienna, April 17, 1923
IX., Berggasse 19

Dear friend,

I vigorously regret that I am going without the advantage of your further remarks. Storfer, seized by blind ambition, has speeded up the printing so much that the thing will already be printed this week. I hardly got a word in myself.—

Now I am in my well-known depression after all the proofreading and swear never again to get onto such slippery ice. It seems to me that the curve has sunk steeply since the “Beyond.”1 It was still rich in thought and nicely written, Group Psychology2 touches on the banal, and this “Id” is downright unclear, artificially put together, and terrible in its diction. So, I also didn't feel the enlightenment from the second sheet that you praise. Except for the basic idea of the “id” and the apercu of the origin of morality, actually everything in this book displeases me.

Your remarks take the “id” too seriously; for that reason I don't dare respond to you. Your doubt about whether one can say “all” perceptions from outside are cs. touches on a problem that annoyed me only last night. The passage in question has, by the way, been changed somewhat.

Your inference about identification seems to me to be correct, but too sharp.

I am longing for the summer vacation, am also gradually unlearning cheerfulness.

On the tenth of the month, in Berlin, Oli married the girl who turned him down two years ago. My wife and Martin were at the wedding as a delegation and brought with them very friendly impressions. Unfortunately, the couple has no more than one room (in Duisburg) at their disposal. Much good mood and modesty will be demanded of the young woman.

My little grandson here3 is the most ingenious child of this age (four years) that I have ever seen. He is also correspondingly thin and sickly, nothing but eyes, hair, and bones.

In your next letter I also hope to hear something personal from you and Frau Gisela.



Notes to "Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, April 17, 1923"

1 Freud 1920g.

2 Freud 1921c.

3 “Heinerle.”

[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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