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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. (1926). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, September 7, 1926. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 274-275.

Ferenczi, S. (1926). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, September 7, 1926. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 274-275

Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, September 7, 1926 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sándor Ferenczi

S. Ferenczi M.D.

VII., Nagydiófa-u.

Sanatorium Groddeck,
September 7, 1926

Dear Professor,

Up to now, our trip has gone according to plan. The only change in our time schedule was the decision to shorten the stay in Munich by two days and to take Lou along with us to Baden-Baden for three days. She will probably share her impressions with you herself, so that I can confine myself to reporting about her that I found her again somewhat aged, but in every other respect unchanged, as the true adherent of our movement and as a reliable friend. Too bad that her life in Göttingen is so lonely and without diversion. Perhaps one could ask Eitingon to invite her to Berlin once again. Being together with us has visibly done her good.

After her departure I quickly took care of the painful duty of finishing the Rank matter.2 In order not to lose any time, I sent the manuscript, about six to seven printed pages long, to Berlin to Eitingon with the request to send a copy to you (and, if Eitingon finds it necessary, also to Jones). I asked him to have this done by the editorial staff, since there is no typewriter at my disposal here. I believe I accomplished the task well; the tone is matter-of-fact, but it comes out stern, which I don't regret at all. I hope you will still be in a position to get your opinion about the critique to me in Europe. We are staying here until September 17, i.e., we are going to Paris on the 18th. The Paris address is not yet certain, but we will be reachable in any event in Cherbourg (on board the “Andania,” Cunard Line, [sailing on the 23rd of September]).

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