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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. (1930). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, September 21, 1930. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 400-401.

Ferenczi, S. (1930). Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, September 21, 1930. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 400-401

Letter from Sándor Ferenczi to Sigmund Freud, September 21, 1930 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sándor Ferenczi

Budapest, September 21, 19301

Dear Professor—

The signs of increased resistance since the Goethe Prize are undeniable; but the fact can't be removed from the world and signifies progress.

I was pleased to hear that you find my new views “very ingenious”; I would have been much more pleased if you had declared them to be correct, probable, or even only plausible. The comparison with the “theory of genitality” is perhaps only a superficial one. The “theory of genitality” was the product of pure speculation at a time when, far removed from any practice, I totally gave way to contemplation (military service). The newer views, only fleetingly alluded to, originate from the practice itself, were brought to the surface by it, extended and modified daily; they proved to be not only theoretically but also practically valuable, that is to say, usable.

It goes without saying that you are completely right when you place the never resting tendency to unification in mental life alongside the trauma. I can not only confirm that in principle, but also plaster with examples the various modes of the tendency to heal. Only I find that the expression “scar formation,” as far as my experience goes, does not characterize mastery of trauma by means of pathological reaction quite accurately, inasmuch as the mental pathological products are not so rigid and incapable of regeneration as are the scars of bodily tissues.

At the beginning of October we are going to Baden-Baden, then to Paris, so that my wife also has something of a vacation. A severe case has to go along.2 You see, relaxation therapy is not always very comfortable for the doctor.

Could you tell me if our Madrid friend with the long name3 has a special reason for not answering my letters?

Many kind regards.



P.S. October 1,4 1930

I waited before sending off this letter until I knew for sure that you were in Vienna. We are leaving today.


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