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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. (1926). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, June 24, 1926. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 267.

Freud, S. (1926). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, June 24, 1926. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 267

Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, June 24, 1926 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sigmund Freud

[Semmering,] Villa Schüler,
June 24, 1926

Dear friend,

You will have received in the meantime my reply which is due you. Rank's statements on pages 16-181 are perhaps not the right point of departure for the critique. Even though he also distorts things here. He is completely under the impression of the “Infantile Neurosis,”2 in which he also sinned with the childhood dream. But I never set up a rule that one has to terminate every treatment of an obsessional neurosis by setting a date, but in this case I found the indication for the rule (one work year earlier) in the fact that the patient was well, wasn't accomplishing anything more, and evidently didn't want to give up the protection of the transference against independence.

When Rank finds himself in the “comfortable position,” he isn't referring to a communication from me, but rather to his own interpretation of the termination of the treatment as “rebirth,” about which I am not at all convinced.

I am not at all well in these—beautiful—days.



Notes to "Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, June 24, 1926"

1 The second number is not clearly legible; the last digit could be an “8” which has been written over a “9” or a “9” which has been written over an “8.”

2 The analysis of the “Wolf-Man,” published under the title “From the History of an Infantile Neurosis” (Freud 1918b), to the termination of which Freud had applied the method of giving notice.

[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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