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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. (1925). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, October 18, 1925. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 233.

Ferenczi, S. (1925). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, October 18, 1925. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 233

Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, October 18, 1925 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sándor Ferenczi

Budapest, October 18, 1925

Dear Professor,

I am pleased, in any event, about the kind words that you let drop about my paper, and I ask you to send the manuscript back to me. I want to read through it once more and then make a decision about publication.

Meanwhile, I feel—by virtue of the long absence and the paucity of epistolary news on the part of the Committee members—isolated from the movement to a certain extent. I learned only by chance of Abraham's renewed illness and don't know how things are with him. I would be very grateful to Fräulein Anna if she would be so kind as to inform me—not only about this, but also about events in general. There would also be room for such communications alongside the Committee letters; it was, in fact, Fräulein Anna who made the correct observation in Homburg that there are things that cannot be verbalized in front of all the members of the Committee.

Our first session concerned itself with business matters and with the report about the Congress.1

Kindest regards from my wife and from your


P.S. I can't convey your response to Daly's gift,2 since he returned to India a long time ago, and I don't know his current address.

Notes to "Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, October 18, 1925"

1 Meeting of October 10, 1925. “I) General meeting. It was decided always to begin the fiscal year of the Association with fall. The previous board was reelected.—2) Dr. Ferenczi and Dr. Hollós: Report on the Ninth International Psychoanalytic Congress” (Zeitschrift 12 [1926]: 124).

2 Reference unclear; cf., however, letter 1050.

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