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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. (1932). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, June 2, 1932. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 437.

Freud, S. (1932). Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, June 2, 1932. The Correspondence of Sigmund Freud and Sándor Ferenczi Volume 3, 1920-1933, 437

Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, June 2, 1932 Book Information Previous Up Next

Sigmund Freud

XVIII Khevenhüllerstrasse 6
[postmark: June 2, 1932]1

Italian Zweig2 arrived, reads very well. I found myself again very interesting, although not altogether similar.

Many thanks.



Notes to "Letter from Sigmund Freud to Sándor Ferenczi, June 2, 1932"

1 Postcard. (The entire text is written in Latin characters.)

2 A friend of mine was recently in Venice, saw the Italian translation of Mental Healers in a bookstore there, and made a present of it to me(Freud to Stefan Zweig, June 2, 1932, in Zweig, Über Sigmund Freud: Porträt, Briefwechsel, Gedenkworte [Frankfurt, 1989], p. 161). The reference is to Zweig's Die Heilung durch den Geist: Mesmer, Mary Baker Eddy, Freud (in English, Mental Healers: Franz Anton Mesmer, Mary Baker Eddy, Sigmund Freud [New York, 1932]).

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