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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 9, 1926. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 275-276.

Ferenczi, S. (1926). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, September 9, 1926. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 275-276

Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, September 9, 1926 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sándor Ferenczi

Baden-Baden, September 9, 1926

Dear Professor,

Just read through “Lay Analysis.” I thank you for the pleasure that this reading brought me. Unequaled in objectivity and clarity. Some of what you teach wasn't totally evident to me until now. Even the stupidest Austrian judge won't be able to shun completely the impression of the book. But will our colleagues also learn from it?

It would be good to look after translating it into English very soon. Perhaps I will find a suitable translator and publisher in America—if you are in favor of this in principle.1

The James Glover catastrophe2 has affected me very greatly; I had the impression that it had to do with something tragic, not accidental. What do you know about the case?3—I considered him—intellectually—the best, certainly the most talented in England.

Groddeck will have his 60th birthday on October 13. Perhaps you would write him a few lines, which would make him happy.4 He is true to us and to our cause, even if he also goes his own way.

The course about child analyses that Fräulein Anna gave me was very instructive. I would like to remind you of your promise to publish these experiences soon.5

N.B.: To the best of my knowledge it is not “Chi tocca muore,” but rather muori.6 But I could be mistaken.

Many kind regards,


Notes to "Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, September 9, 1926"

1 An English edition was published by Brentano in 1927, translated by A. Paul Maerker-Branden, with an introduction by Ferenczi (Ferenczi 1927, 280b).


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